The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia 9780691185958

A gripping account of the Russian visionaries who are pursuing human immortality As long as we have known death, we ha

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The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia
 9780691185958

Table of contents :
Contents
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Freeze, Die, Come to Life: The Many Paths to Immortality
2. Our Body Must Become Our Cause, the Common Cause
3. Ending Death by Disease: The “War on Aging”
4. Inside NeuroNet
Conclusion: Time. Space. Life.
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

T h e F u t u r e of I m morta l i t y

P r i nc e t on S t u di e s i n C u lt u r e a n d T e c h nol o g y Tom Boellstorff and Bill Maurer, Series Editors This series presents innovative work that extends classic ethnographic methods and questions into areas of pressing interest in technology and economics. It explores the varied ways new technologies combine with older technologies and cultural understandings to shape novel forms of subjectivity, embodiment, knowledge, place, and community. By doing so, the series demonstrates the relevance of anthropological inquiry to emerging forms of digital culture in the broadest sense.

Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond by Stefan Helmreich with contributions from Sophia Roosth and Michele Friedner Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture edited by Benjamin Peters Democracy’s Infrastructure: Techno-Politics and Protest after Apartheid by Antina von Schnitzler Everyday Sectarianism in Urban Lebanon: Infrastructures, Public Services, and Power by Joanne Randa Nucho Disruptive Fixation: School Reform and the Pitfalls of Techno-Idealism by Christo Sims Biomedical Odysseys: Fetal Cell Experiments from Cyberspace to China by Priscilla Song Watch Me Play: Twitch and the Rise of Game Live Streaming by T. L. Taylor Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India by Lilly Irani The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia by Anya Bernstein

The Future of Immortality R e m a k i ng L i f e a n d De at h i n Con t e m por a ry Rus si a

A n ya Be r nst e i n

Pr i nceton U n i v e r sit y Pr e ss Pr i nceton & Ox for d

Copyright © 2019 by Princeton University Press Published by Princeton University Press 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540 6 Oxford Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1TR press.princeton.edu All Rights Reserved LCCN: 2019932296 ISBN: 978-0-691-18260-5 ISBN: (pbk.) 978-0-691-18260-5 British Library Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available Editorial: Fred Appel & Thalia Leaf Production Editorial: Ali Parrington Jacket/Cover Design: Layla MacRory Jacket/Cover Art: Janusz Jurek, generative illustration from the Papilarnie series Production: Erin Suydam This book has been composed in Arno Printed on acid-free paper. ∞ Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To my father, Lev Bernstein (1951–2014)

C on t e n t s

List of Illustrations

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Acknowledgments

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Introduction

1

The Limits of Time and Space

6

Futurism as a Politics of Time

11

The Future as the Common Cause

15

Trans- or Posthuman? A Brief Guide

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Mortals of the World, Unite!

22

The Return of the Progressors

29

1 Freeze, Die, Come to Life: The Many Paths to Immortality

35

KrioRus: Bodies in the Deep Freeze

41

The Avatar Project

49

Kinship, Resurrection, and Physiological Collectivism

59

Producing the Post-Soviet Human

71

Beyond the Sovereign Self

76

2 Our Body Must Become Our Cause, the Common Cause

81

To Bury Is to Preserve

83

Smertobozhnichestvo: Apotheosis of Death

90

A Body Was Given to Me—What Do I Do with It?

97

The Spirit of Dialectics

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Con t e n ts

3 Ending Death by Disease: The “War on Aging”

4

124

“Homo Sapiens Liberatus”

126

Optimistic Biology

135

The Future of Aging: Four Scenarios

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Is Aging a Disease?

146

Science, Business, and Hope

152

A New National Idea

161

Inside NeuroNet

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Chips and Mind Melds

169

Foresight: Reengineering Futures

178

The Future Must Be Created

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NeuroNet: A New Space Race?

187

The Noös and the Cosmos

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Virtually Immortal

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Conclusion: Time. Space. Life.

211

Bibliography Index 255

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I l lu s t r at ions

Figures I.1. Vselenskoe delo (The universal cause), cover, 1914

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I.2. Vselenskoe delo, “Mortals of the world, unite!”

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I.3. Anastasia Gacheva and Valerija Pride at the celebration of Fedorov’s birthday

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1.1. The Dewars, called Anabioz-1 and Anabioz-2

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1.2. Four bodies of the Avatar Project

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1.3. N. F. Fedorov, Filosofiia obshchago dela (The philosophy of the common cause), cover, 1906

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3.1. Naked mole rats

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3.2. Age-related increase in mortality

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3.3. Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics logo

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3.4. V. P. Skulachev at his office at Moscow State University

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3.5. Mortality/disease graph

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3.6. Maria Konovalenko at a transhumanist rally near the Kremlin

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4.1. Marina Abramović sitting in Moscow with electrodes

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4.2. Road map in the making

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4.3. NeuroNet road map

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Tables I.1. Trans- or posthuman?

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2.1. Views on bodily enhancements

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4.1. An example of an initial blank chart

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First and for emost, I thank my ethnographic consultants in Russia, who gave generously of their time serving as my guides through the diverse but interconnected communities of Russian immortalism. Ever since I first appeared in Moscow in the summer of 2013 armed with only a few newspaper clippings about the “scandalous” business of Russian cryonics, six people in particular worked tirelessly to expand my understanding of their causes, imaginaries, and projects. Our discussions, often lasting for hours into the night, helped me overcome many a preconceived idea, as I hope this book will do for my readers. All mistakes and misinterpretations, of course, are my own. Mikhail Batin expanded my view of aging and anti-aging, in addition to introducing me to many of the other key characters in this book. A selfappointed gatekeeper of “scientific” transhumanism, he was often concerned that this anthropologist might be veering off track into the dubious terrain of “pseudoscience” and periodically attempted to correct it, all with his excellent sense of humor. Valerija Pride and Danila Medvedev made me see cryonics in a completely new light, less an allegedly neoliberal practice of investment in the self and more as an instance of intergenerational caregiving. Anastasia Gacheva spent countless hours with me discussing Nikolai Fedorov’s philosophy, the history of the Fedorovian movement, and the relevance of the philosopher’s ideas and their possible applications today. Her courage, wit, and everyday practice of living “not for oneself and not for others, but with everyone and for everyone”—despite the myriad obstacles presented by daily life—left the deepest impression. Lev Regel’son likewise expanded my understanding of the Fedorovian legacy, while sharing his lifetime of thinking on science and religion. Pavel Luksha helped me understand the place of spirituality in technofuturist endeavors, never ceasing to impress with his vast erudition and creative spirit. My special thanks for sharing their thoughts and ideas also go to Alexey Turchin, Igor’ Artiukhov, Timour Shchoukine, Daria Khaltourina, Elena Milova, Igor’ Kiriliuk, Maria Konovalenko, Dmitry xi

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Itskov, Denis Rysev, Vladimir Skulachev, Aleksandr Marusev, Boris Rezhabek, Valerii Borisov, Alexander Khaliavkin, Maxim Kholin, Petr Fedichev, Igor’ Nezovibat’ko, Mikhail Baranov, Ivan Kondrat’ev, Viktor Zykov, and Andrei Afanas’ev, among many others. I also thank Anna Gorskaia of the Fedorov Museum-Library for her warm welcome and assistance. Andrei Konstantinov, Yuri Lapshin, Tanya Konstantinova, Elena Sokolova, and Marina Potapova provided much-needed conversations about my ongoing research and kept me current on science fiction films and series. Andrei and Tanya’s kitchen was frequently the first place for me to debrief after periods of intense fieldwork, and it was the perfect platform for debating many of the issues covered in this book outside of academic contexts. In the academy, many colleagues have read versions of the manuscript, as well as individual chapters. Bruce Grant was an endless source of encouragement and fascinating ideas for new directions, as he has been so steadfastly in all the time I have known him. My hope is to be as good a mentor to others. Michael Gordin and Serguei Oushakine provided invaluable feedback during my book conference at Princeton University. Michael remains my guru in all things in the history of science, pseudoscience, and science fiction, and I am especially thankful to him for indulging my neophyte enthusiasm for his own discipline, the history of science. He responded—and at the speed of light—to my endless email queries on issues ranging from cybernetics to evolutionary biology to the philosophy of time. Vadim Gladyshev, biogerontologist at Harvard University, has been a cherished consultant on issues in the biology of aging, and he provided invaluable feedback on chapter 3. I have yet to align our schedules for a trip with my students to his Harvard lab to see his naked mole rats, those totemic animals of many of the characters of this book. Michael Hagemeister clarified numerous concepts regarding Russian Cosmism and was extremely generous with his time during my visit to Bochum and afterward. Alexei Yurchak and I had many productive discussions on Russian utopianism and communist necropolitics, while comparing notes on the techniques of perfusion used in cryonics and Lenin’s embalmment. My colleagues in the social anthropology program in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University provided a wonderful environment in which to conceive and develop this book. Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, Michael Herzfeld, Mary Steedly, Nick Harkness, Ajantha Subramanian, Arthur Kleinman, Ieva Iusonyte, George Paul Meiu, Laurence Ralph, Susan Greenhalgh, Byron Good, Lucien Taylor, and department chair Gary Urton, as well as Anya Bassett, the chair of my second home in the Committee on Degrees

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in Social Studies, were the best colleagues one could ask for. I am especially grateful to Mary Steedly, whose untimely passing I continue to mourn. It was Mary in one of our many conversations who suggested the “The Future of Immortality” as the first part of the title of this book. I discussed this work with a number of colleagues from other institutions, as well as other departments at Harvard, to whom I am very grateful: David Berliner, Jon Bialecki, Manduhai Buyandelger, Abou Farman, Milla Fedorova, Steve Fuller, Slava Gerovitch, Faye Ginsburg, Alaina Lemon, Donald Lopez, Fred Myers, Ahmed Ragab, Nancy Ries, Douglas Rogers, Sophia Roosth, Cameron Warner, and Yevgeniy Zhuravel. I also thank my graduate and undergraduate students in classes at Harvard (Anthropology of Death and Immortality; Grounding the Global: Anthropological Perspectives; Humans, Technology, and Biopolitics; and Religion and Secularism), as well as the students who attended the first iteration of my Anthropology of Death seminar at the University of Michigan. I am grateful to Andrew Shryock for convincing me to develop this class. This book partially grew out of my fascination with the material I discovered while first preparing for it. I thank Fred Appel of Princeton University Press for his support and interest in this manuscript from its inception, as well as series editors Bill Maurer and Tom Boellstorff for their encouragement. Three terrific anonymous reviewers provided uncommonly generous feedback and suggestions. Don Reneau vastly improved the manuscript with his brilliant editing touches. I presented versions of several chapters of this work as invited talks at the following institutions: the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, New York University; the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University; the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley; the Science, Religion, and Culture Program of the Harvard Divinity School; the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen; the Department of Anthropology, University of Aarhus, Denmark; the Bioethics Group of the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow; the Laboratory of Anthropology of Contemporary Worlds at the Institute of Sociology, Free University of Brussels, Belgium; the Medical Anthropology Group, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow; and the Center for the Anthropology of Religion, Department of Anthropology, European University, St. Petersburg. I also presented parts of this work at the following workshops and conferences: “Thinking about Science, Religion, and Secularism,” Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, University of California, Berkeley; “Beyond Disenchantment: Science, Technology, and

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New Religious Movements,” Williams College; “Signs of Life” panel, American Anthropological Association, Minneapolis; “Russian Politics beyond the Kremlin” conference, Yale University; “Scientific Utopias in the Soviet Union: Fiction, Science, and Power (1917–1991),” CNRS and Institute for Advanced Studies, Paris; and “From Humanism to Post- and Transhumanism,” hosted by the Beyond Humanism network, Ehwa Women’s University, Seoul, Korea. I am extremely grateful to the panel organizers, discussants, and audiences at these events, who offered many helpful thoughts and suggestions. The research for and writing of this book were generously supported by grants from Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs; the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies; the Dean’s Competitive Fund for Promising Scholarship at Harvard; the John F. Cogan Junior Faculty Leave Program; the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies; the John L. Loeb Associate Professor Annual Research Grant; the National Science Foundation; and the Luce/ACLS Fellowship in Religion, Journalism, and International Affairs with residence at the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University. An earlier version of chapter 1 appeared as “Freeze, Die, Come to Life: The Many Paths to Immortality in Post- Soviet Russia,” American Ethnologist 42, no. 4 (2015): 766–81. I thank the publisher for kindly allowing me to reprint it. I am grateful to my family, and especially to my mother, Elena, and grandfather Ayzik, for their continued love and support, and to Auriel, who never lets me forget what is truly important in life. I am also grateful to my brilliant friends, who have endured me talking about the same issues for years. Finally, this book would not have been the same without the constant support of my dear friend Wladd Muta, whose lively imagination, erudition, and similar interests come from the perspective of an artist and provided a platform for almost daily discussions of all things human, posthuman, and transhuman, alongside thoughts of what the human might become. One person who was eagerly awaiting the results of this research was my father, Lev Bernstein, my first and foremost supporter in all of my endeavors. His untimely passing at the age of sixty-three in 2014, in the early stages of research, meant that he did not get to see me develop an active interest in the “hard” sciences, as he was fond of goading me to do. He did not get to hear about the fascinating people, many of them scientists, I met during my research year in Moscow. This means that now, as I find myself increasingly fascinated by chemistry—his main field of specialty—and physics and biology, in which he was also very knowledgeable, I cannot pick up the phone

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and ask him the endless questions that arise as I continue pondering the main themes of this book. These conversations would be for another time, another place. In the meantime, as my dad is such a big part of me, I continue having them inside my head and in my dreams. This book is dedicated to his memory.

T h e F u t u r e of I m morta l i t y

Introduction

On a warm fall day in 2012, in front of the Karl Marx monument on Theater Square, right across from the Bolshoi in the heart of Moscow, a few dozen people gathered for a demonstration. It’s the square with the only remaining grand statue of Marx in the city and a popular place for rallies. But this was not your average political rally, at least not if you mean by that one with immediately recognizable political affiliations. A middle- aged man held a poster demanding “Old People Should Live.” Others read, “We Are for Regenerative Medicine” and “I Want to Be a GMO.” One young man rode a futuristic-looking electric unicycle around the giant rock slab with Marx’s torso emerging out of it, held up by the inscription “Proletarians of the world, unite!” A fifty-something woman walked by with a sign declaring “We Are for Immortality.” Addressing the rally was Anastasia Gacheva, a woman also in her fifties and a prominent member of the so-called Fedorov movement, or Cosmists, followers of the nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox philosopher Nikolai Fedorov. “All social doctrines,” she said, “all the social utopias humanity has tried to achieve have stumbled up against the short-breathedness [korotkodykhannost’] of man.”1 “Short-breathedness” is an impossible translation of an impossible term. She meant by it something like a fundamental physical and spiritual limitation. The utopias stumbled on man’s deepest misfortune, which is his mortality. Mortal man cannot be made happy. This is why communism did not succeed. . . . Communism wanted to build universal happiness, but it failed, because a mortal man, a being ridden with contradictions, will never be capable of harmony. 1. All translations of oral and written Russian-language materials that appear in this book are my own, unless otherwise indicated. 1

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The idea of immortalism as humanity’s common future has been advanced by a long line of Russian philosophers, continued the speaker. Anastasia parted her long hair in the middle and had it neatly pulled back. She was wearing loose black dress pants, an unassuming turtleneck, and a light overcoat. She spoke into the microphone with the confidence of an experienced and able public speaker, her clear and ringing voice resonating around the square. “And this movement from homo sapiens to homo immortalis,” Gacheva continued, “is far from a mere utopian dream. It is not a dream of loners and individualists who want to live forever. No, it is an evolutionary imperative, demanded of us by nature.” The twentieth century, she explained, was all about venturing into space, an enormous achievement. But such short-lived beings as ourselves are not going to get the job done. She quoted a Soviet biologist, Vasilii Kuprevich, from the 1960s: “A human who lives only a few decades cannot master space, just as a mayfly with a one-day life span can never cross the ocean.” The speaker draws the obvious conclusion. To get to Mars and other galaxies we have to become immortal. We need to transform our bodies. As the philosopher Nikolai Fedorov said, “Our body will become our cause” [nashe telo stanet nashim delom]. The idea of immortality is a deeply moral idea. Remember that science is our tool. Also remember that the Lord did not create death. Science should serve life, immortality, and resurrection! This sudden mention of God made some members of the audience cringe, but the speech concluded to loud applause. A woman in high heels and skinny jeans, about Anastasia’s age, came up on stage gushing thanks: “I knew if Anastasia Gacheva would honor us with her presence, we could count on something fiery and compelling.” The second woman was Valerija Pride, widely known as the director of KrioRus, Russia’s first cryonics company, which keeps people frozen in a state of suspended animation in hopes of future resurrection. Valerija was one of the co-organizers of this event, called Rally for Radical Life Extension, the second annual public gathering of longevity activists under these auspices. Valerija went on to speak about the importance of getting state support for regenerative medicine and biotechnology, calling on everyone to write letters to the Duma, organize roundtables, and engage in lobbying. “It is shameful,” she said. “Average life expectancy in Russia is only seventy years, when many of the technologies needed for longer life are already available.”

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Anastasia listened intently to the speech, occasionally nodding. Nikolai Fedorov (1829–1903), the Russian Orthodox philosopher whom she had mentioned in her speech, famously proposed that through science we would one day learn to resurrect the dead. There could be no worthier undertaking than furthering this task, argued the philosopher; it was the only thing capable of uniting humanity, ending wars, and achieving world peace. Fedorov called it “the common cause” (obshchee delo). Eccentric as it sounded, the notion turned out to be an extremely significant one in late Russian imperial and later Soviet culture, influencing a wide range of prominent figures, from Dostoyevsky to Bolshevik revolutionaries to latter-day Soviet scientists. The fight against death, Fedorov believed, would unite believers and unbelievers, the literate and the illiterate, the religious and the secular. These two women, both of whom I later got to know quite well, could not have been more different. While Valerija is known for her militant atheism and for regularly scandalizing religious circles by promoting cryonic suspension, Anastasia is a devout Russian Orthodox Christian. Watching the two of them interact, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was Fedorov’s prediction about the common cause uniting believers and unbelievers coming true? Since 1840, life expectancy on average has been growing globally at around three months with each passing year. If most babies born in 1900 did not live past age fifty, according to the U.S. National Institute of Aging, today life expectancy at birth in some developed countries is eighty or higher (eightythree in Japan, the current leader) (National Institute of Aging 2012). However, as our life spans grow, so too, apparently, does the desire among some to live even longer. Still others, indeed, have decided to live forever. This longrunning theme in science fiction and myth seems to have returned under a new technological guise, as the “breathless futurology” (Harrington, Rose, and Singh 2006) of bio- and nanotechnologies has captured the imaginations of tech billionaires and the general public alike. “Can Google Solve Death?” questioned the cover of a 2013 issue of Time magazine, as Google cofounder and chief executive Larry Page announced their new company, Calico, short for California Life Company, whose mission would be to extend life spans and cure the diseases of aging.2 Start-ups pursuing life-expectancy and aging research seem to spring up weekly, often funded by tech entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, and Peter Thiel. In what seems to be an explosion of coverage of these topics in recent years (Brooker 2015; Easterbrook 2. See Calico’s website: http://www.calicolabs.com.

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2014; Friend 2017; Isaacson 2015; Lytton 2015; Packer 2011), media accounts oscillate between excitement and worry, asking how such technologies will be implemented and to whom they will be available. Does immortality come with a price tag? Will these biological transformations benefit society as a whole, or is this a cult of narcissistic self-improvement (McCray 2017)? And how can one talk about endless life extension when, with environmental apocalypse looming on the horizon, humanity’s very survival is increasingly uncertain? What is often missing from both skeptical critiques and optimistic endorsements, in turn, is a deep reflection about what such biotechnological breakthroughs, which revitalize a dream that obsessed humanity for centuries, mean for the very idea of the human. What possible ontologies and epistemologies of the human are currently emerging from these developments? What kinds of politics, ethics, and metaphysics are enabled and disabled in the process? In this book, I look at these questions anthropologically by considering one national tradition where precisely such concerns have been provoking continuous and unusually heated debates since at least the second half of the nineteenth century. Well before Silicon Valley’s recent obsession with immortality (Friend 2017), from the mid-nineteenth century onward, in Russia, the Soviet Union, and the Russian Federation that succeeded them, the theme of technologically enabled human immortality has been consistent across diverse intellectual circles in a way, I would contend, that we do not find elsewhere in the world at least until the 1960s. Take, for example, a 1932 doctoral dissertation by the well-known American historian Corliss Lamont, titled “Issues of Immortality.” While the dissertation in question included over two thousand titles in its bibliography, discussing every possible type of immortality, science-based eternal physical life was not one of them. Such an omission, claimed British Sovietologist Peter Wiles, who first quoted this example in 1965, would be impossible in a Russian context during the same period— a statement well corroborated by historical evidence (Lamont 1932; Wiles 1965a, 1965b). In 1965, Wiles published “On Physical Immortality,” a substantial two-part essay devoted to the history of the idea of living forever and attempts to actually achieve it in Russia and the Soviet Union. Although he seems to have been aware that cryonics, the freezing of recently deceased bodies in liquid nitrogen in hopes of future reanimation, was being theorized and developed at the time in the United States in a way it had not been in Russia, Wiles clearly wants to

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maintain a kind of Russian priority on the topic.3 And other researchers tend to agree, identifying the “Russian trace” in the history of American cryonics (Soloviov 1995) by pointing, among other predecessors, to Russian anabiosis research being undertaken as early as the late 1800s. The idea of anabiosis—a state of suspended animation, that is, of “neither life nor death”—was that freezing stops all biological processes in a living organism. So captured was the public imagination by experiments on achieving the state of suspended animation in fruit flies and bats that in 1922 a group of revolutionary anarchists, artists, and poets calling themselves Biocosmists even composed a poem called Poema anabioza (Poem of anabiosis), where the freezing and thawing of humans was proposed as a way to advance the world revolution (Iaroslavskii 1922). My point in this context is not to posit a point of origin or advance an overtly culturalist argument—that there is somehow something very “Russian” about technofuturism—but to show how particular historical contingencies have resulted in the Russian futurist scene being one of the world’s most active contemporary immortalist communities. To learn more about this, I installed myself in Moscow for a year and a half to pursue a number of questions posed by this development. Through a wide variety of conversations, interviews, and informal work settings, I reached out to diverse but often overlapping milieus of futurists, life-extension activists, scientists, philosophers, investors, lobbyists, and religious thinkers who constitute the complex field of Russian immortalism. My interlocutors for this book included owners of a cryonics firm and their clients, scientists in the field of biology of aging, or 3. As Wiles himself notes, physical immortality “fits naturally” into only one other social and ideological environment besides the Russian one—the American one. He likens Nikolai Fedorov’s ideas about resurrecting the ancestors to the Mormon practice of baptizing their ancestors into immortality. He suggests that Fedorov must have heard of Mormonism, but he also compares the Russian Orthodox idea that matter can be spirit-bearing (dukhonosnaia) to the Mormon view that spirit and matter are the same thing, which he calls “an absolutely cardinal Mormon tenet.” Mentioned in the essay is the “deep freezer” Robert Ettinger (1918–2011), the founder of the American cryonics movement (Wiles 1965a, 137). For early theorizers of American cryonics, see Ettinger 1964 and Duhring 1962. The first patient was cryopreserved in the United States in 1967. Interestingly, while the majority of American transhumanists are “scientifically oriented secularists” (Farman 2013, 754), the first American transhumanist organization with a religious basis, the Mormon Transhumanist Association, was founded in 2006. On Mormonism and transhumanism, see Bialecki 2017.

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biogerontology, professional futurologists, grassroots neurotechnology enthusiasts, followers of the Fedorov movement, and others. All were pondering the future and the “big questions.”

The Limits of Time and Space “I can’t understand why governments spend so much money on useless space exploration, when we have not yet figured out how the human body works,” said Andrei, a twenty-eight-year-old Russian entrepreneur. An astrophysicist by training, he had recently become passionate about the possibilities of genomics extending the biological life span. He was addressing his far-flung online audience, with participants responding in typed comments.4 “I am not talking about ‘useful’ space research, like GPS or communication satellites,” Andrei added as a disclaimer. “I am talking about deep space [dal’nii kosmos]. Why spend money on something so impractical? Look, the top science news today is how they found water on Mars. But the really breaking news—that they found a new revolutionary way of genome editing—is completely buried.”5 Responses from the audience varied, revealing a range of opinion regarding science, religion, ethics, and humanity’s future—all frequent topics of heated public debate in contemporary Russia. One woman replied indignantly: “Humanity not wanting to leave the confines of one planet is a sign of the world decline!” The statement brings to mind a quote from the pioneer of Russian cosmonautics Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who is famous for the phrase:

4. September 29, 2015. The direct quotes from this episode come from the online discussion. I also had frequent discussions of these themes in person with my interlocutors, including Andrei, throughout my fieldwork. In the interest of anonymizing my research participants, except for those, such as well-known public figures, who have asked to be identified, I am not providing the link to this online forum, as it includes many real names. 5. Andrei was referring to two news items, the first reporting on CRISPR, a new method of gene editing, from November 25, 2015, and the second on finding liquid water on Mars, from November 28, 2015 (Ledford 2015; NASA 2015). A quick online search confirms that the news about water on Mars, indeed, completely overshadowed the news about gene editing, as it was immediately reported in all major media, including CNN, The Guardian, National Geographic, the New York Times, the BBC, and other major media outlets. News about CRISPR was much slower to spread, initially appearing only in specialized science and technology publications. It took over a month for the nonspecialized publications to pick up on the breakthrough news. See, for example, Kahn 2015; Specter 2015.

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“The earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.”6 Continuing the same line of argument, someone appealed to Soviet history, pointing out that “the generation who dreamed when they were kids of growing up to be cosmonauts is still around,” referencing the lasting prestige of space exploration in the post- Soviet imaginary. Others offered more practical reasons to explore deep space: the commercial mining of planets and asteroids, the possibility of unexpected scientific discoveries, the possible appearance of new industries, or ultimately the need to locate an alternative habitat due to the risk of human extinction on Earth. Still others argued that since gene editing implies human redesign, it will never be accepted because “we still have people who believe in God,” whereas deep space exploration “doesn’t contradict religion.”7 A few accused Andrei of being narrow-minded and ignorant of the field of space research. In fact, we know that Andrei the astrophysicist was likely much better versed in space research than most of his audience. He was being deliberately and thoughtfully provocative. He spoke as if he wanted to be convinced other wise, playing devil’s advocate regarding the “uselessness” of space exploration. I had first met Andrei about eight months earlier at a gathering of futurists, visionaries, and entrepreneurs that took place on a flotilla of three government-funded boats meeting under the banner of the Foresight Fleet. The goal of this four-day float, consisting of only the most promising participants carefully selected by a special agency, was nothing less than to identify and develop emergent technological ideas with the potential of becoming a new postsocialist Russian megaproject on the model of the space program in the Soviet period. Andrei told me that he grew disillusioned with academic science after obtaining his graduate degree and quit physics to become the CEO of a successful bioinformatics start-up. He saw opportunities—on both the entrepreneurial and visionary planes—in new applications of genomics research to aging. Through his new interests, he met people calling themselves “transhumanists,” members of a loosely defined philosophical and cultural 6. Tsiolkovsky has been routinely misquoted. In the actual quotation, “mind” (razum) appears in place of “humanity”: “The earth is the cradle of the mind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever” (Tsiolkovsky 1967, 86). 7. In the USSR, however, the rhetoric of space conquest was used precisely to disprove religion (Smolkin-Rothrock 2011). German Titov, one of the first Soviet cosmonauts, famously asserted during his visit to the United States that he did not see angels or gods in space and that “no God helped build our rocket” (Siddiqi 2010, 74). (In 2015 I heard the reverse: Gagarin went into space and confirmed the existence of angels.)

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movement that aspires to transform the human condition, deliver humanity from its biological limitations, extend the life span, and even achieve actual immortality. He does not call himself transhumanist and prefers to keep his distance from controversial practices like cryonics and “mind uploading” (the hypothetical possibility of separating the mind from the biological brain). What captured Andrei’s interest was biogerontology, or the biology of aging, a field about which many transhumanists are also passionate, with some devoting their lives to promoting it. Some of his readers equated the need for space exploration with the longterm goal of resettlement made necessary by the threat of human extinction on this planet. Andrei takes that risk quite seriously, insisting nonetheless that it remains the human body that needs to be figured out first. He conceded the definite possibility, even “scientific certainty,” that our Sun will eventually die out, and eventually the entire universe will come to an end. Yet the possibility, he quipped, that “you and I will die in the next one hundred years is one hundred percent. So let’s stop dying first and then figure out how to deal with space exploration. Doesn’t that make more sense?” One commenter agreed, noting that while he considers life valuable, it’s not the highest value, and that he understands why “people would buy a one-way ticket to Mars.”8 Of course, he added, in the ideal situation we would fly there with “our bodies already genetically modified to reduce the need for oxygen and increase our tolerance to cosmic radiation.” Then after a thoughtful pause: “On the other hand, none of this guarantees indestructibility—even with a genetically modified body, you can still die in a spaceship crash. Wouldn’t it be better to find a way to transfer our minds to more durable media? Then you can make backups and be everywhere at once.” Andrei, in turn, expressed his doubts, absent a great deal more knowledge about the brain, that any such “backup” would be possible. Throughout 2015 I observed discussions of just these issues being replayed again and again in multiple circles and settings in Russia, both off- and online. It may seem that interest in questions of space exploration and life extension is confined to a narrow circle of science fiction fans, but in Russia these are frequent and controversial discussion topics in broad intellectual circles, which are linked to divergent interpretations of the Soviet legacy and competing visions of possible futures. As if in answer to Andrei’s question, one interlocutor burst out indignantly: 8. This comment refers to the news that came out earlier in 2015 about Mars One, a project by a Dutch nonprofit offering to establish human settlements on Mars by 2027. See Cruddas 2015.

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Our dreams of both space exploration and life extension have been betrayed. Betrayed in the Soviet Union, but also in the rest of the world. Humans were really changed by the development of space travel. We didn’t go into space to get our hands on new spices, like fifteenth-century colonial explorers. It’s useless and not profitable to drag home minerals from space. No. We ventured into space to find ourselves. To find our future. To find a superhuman [sverkhchelovek]. But in the 1970s the expansion of the space program stopped. By then it had been reduced to meaningless spinning around the earth with petty commercial goals. It’s depressing to think that it has been forty-two years since a human being set foot on another celestial body.9 Here we see two completely divergent opinions: one saying that too much airtime is being devoted to space exploration, the other lamenting that as far as space exploration is concerned, nothing is going on at all anymore, which is a “betrayal” of the Soviet dream. Meanwhile Andrei’s position is that the exploration of space can only be worthwhile if death is overcome, whereas for other Russian futurists, these two projects are seen as one. Space conquest for them is not a goal to be postponed for a later time—on the contrary, its urgency lies in that in itself it constitutes the way to spiritual and biological transformation. Apart from space exploration as a constant theme, the key issues in debates about the future revolved around these questions: As we extend life spans, should we remain in our biological bodies? Or should we forgo our carbonbased substrate altogether and search for some more “durable” medium, such as silicon, or perhaps even something intangible and virtual? What kind of bodies are being envisioned in the evolving discursive constructions of the brain as “wetware” (in analogy with hardware and software)? Does the conflict between our long-standing carbon-based history and these new propositions change the status of being human? What are the ethical implications of that? What new possibilities, and what risks, are being brought out by such rapid advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence? And, finally, what do we do with all of ourselves if we really stop dying? As far out as such debates might seem, what is shared across the divides in these often heated discussions is a deep interest in rethinking the changing status of the human, the relationship between body and mind, biology and technology, extending to the notion of life itself. 9. My interlocutor here belongs to the Russia 2045 movement (see chapter 1), expressing the view that is also supported by the Fedorov movement.

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In this book I explore these interconnected and emerging technoscientific and religious futurisms in the context of contemporary Russian culture and politics. I argue that while the recent rise of such futurisms in Russia may be part of a global reorientation of time away from the present and toward the anticipation of possible (if ever deferred) futures, they are also deeply rooted in prerevolutionary eschatologies prompted by the rise of nineteenth-century science, as well as in the Soviet politics of time, space exploration, and particular projects of visionary social and biological engineering. As advancements in biomedical technologies from the mechanical ventilator to cloning have been gradually erasing once more certain boundaries between life and death, they have also opened up a frightening abyss of indeterminately liminal states. What, in these middle zones, does it mean to be human? As the figures of the not-dead-but-not-fully-alive—the comatose, the good-as-dead, and the minimally conscious—already hover ambiguously around us, the cryopreserved, the “uploaded into cyberspace,” and the “negligibly senescent” are coming in their stead as harbingers of what is to come.10 These new forms-of-life and forms-of-death—both existing and imagined—are the subject of this book. My focus is on a consistent thread running through Russian, Soviet, and post- Soviet technofuturism, namely, immortalism, in the sense of both a movement and a set of ideas concerned with overcoming death through technoscientific means.11 I suggest that Russian immortalism is not to be dismissed as mere speculative philosophy but regarded, instead, as an attempt to bring the future into the present by advocating and exemplifying certain modes of being and acting in the world. Tracing their roots to the rich tradition of Russian utopianism that built and intensified from the mid-nineteenth into the early twentieth century and beyond, contemporary Russian immortalists emerge as a diverse group, offering visionary projects of the biological and moral transformation of humanity through science, religion, and social change. Whether militant atheists or devout Orthodox Christians, Buddhists or secular humanists, what they

10. Kaufman and Morgan 2005, 330; see also Franklin and Lock 2003. The term “negligible senescence” refers to the lack of symptoms of aging in some non-human organisms (see chapter 4). 11. Immortalism can arguably be seen as one of the key ideas of transhumanism, although transhumanism is a wider set of ideas about the future of the human. Both are forms of technofuturism. Immortalists, in turn, are not necessarily transhumanists, such as the case with Fedorovians in Russia.

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all share is a particular mode of ethical reasoning, a view that evolutionary progress toward immortality is a prerequisite to moral progress. They share a vision of current humanity as transitional, a stage in a further evolution. In the chapters that follow, I trace how alternative forms of embodiment have been envisioned by Russian immortalists, past and present, and how this diverse set of figures has pondered ontological and epistemological definitions of the human, projecting us into a range of possible futures through their distinctive utopias and eschatologies. I ask: Rather than viewing the theories presented in the book as pseudoscience, as some critics do, what if we use them to “subvert the epistemic scaffolding” (Comaroff and Comaroff 2012, 1) on which the Euromodern certainties of life and death stand constructed?12 What if we view them as a “hyperbolic prefiguration” of our own “future-in-the-making” (ibid., 19)? I look at the discourses and practices of Russian immortalism as productive of the ways in which we see the present, as well as pointing toward our possible futures. After all, their task, as most futurists see it, is not the same as that of science. The point for them is not so much to prove a theory but to extrapolate present trends into future scenarios and get us thinking about the possibilities—as well as risks—of what might come after.

Futurism as a Politics of Time In recent decades we have seen a proliferation of speculation about things to come, a veritable “boom times” for the future that is generating an entire economy of anticipation (Adams, Murphy, and Clarke 2009; Appadurai 2013; Rosenberg and Harding 2005). As Adams and her colleagues have argued, anticipation is the key pivot: it is at once an episteme, a temporal orientation, and a moral injunction, where the present is abducted into the future (2009). Anticipation has its own peculiar politics of temporality, a way of managing time that becomes particularly salient at the conjuncture of technoscience and life, as “sciences of the actual” are now being replaced by speculative forecasts (ibid., 247). Producing affective states of alternating hope and fear, such an ethos of preparedness requires action now to secure certain futures and avoid others. Anticipation produces political narratives of preemptive wars and dictates how we manage our financial futures. In biomedicine anticipation is becoming a totalizing mode of orientation, increasingly encouraging 12. See Gordin 2013 for a fascinating discussion of the changing and socially constituted definitions of “pseudoscience.”

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us to secure our biomedical futures by undertaking preventive interventions. Whether it is genetic testing or the banking of our biological material, promissory investment logics transferred from the financial realm, with their vocabularies of “banking” and “securing,” appear in the current politics of life (Fortun 2008; Rajan 2006). Anticipation is thus both a mode of subjectification of the individual to neoliberal logics and a hegemonic formation, which “renders some places as backwards in time, needing anticipatory investment, while other places are deemed already at the cusp of the ‘new’ future, marked by the virtue of rapid change” (Adams, Murphy, and Clarke 2009, 251; see also Rose 2007). Yet, are we correct in thinking of anticipation as something that flourishes in some historical periods and locations, such as fin de siècles, and disappears in others? Or is an “anticipatory consciousness” central to human thought as such, as postulated by Ernst Bloch in the second volume of his magnum opus The Principle of Hope ([1955] 1995)? As Adams and colleagues recognize, anticipation as a particular temporal regime is nothing new: it has been a component of decolonization, feminism, and Marxism, to name just a few of the most prominent movements (Adams, Murphy, and Clarke 2009, 248). Emancipation is about the future, after all. Going beyond secular modalities, anticipation (whether in utopian or apocalyptic mode) has figured as well as a key component of religious thought and millenarian movements, which no less than their secular counterparts rely on the possibilities of new futures. If Orthodox Christianity attempted to reorder human relationship to time, which is especially prominent in the chiliastic versions concerned with building “heaven on Earth,” so too did Soviet socialism. The latter grew out of an exceptionally vibrant tradition in nineteenth-century Russian utopianism, which counts among its inspiration not only select Orthodox ideas but also ideas stemming from Renaissance humanism, as well as Marx, Nietzsche, and Darwin.13 At the same time, what some of the figures appearing in this book find unsatisfactory in both capitalist and socialist projects is precisely the prominence of anticipation as a temporal orientation. On the one hand, as we will

13. Drawing on Heller and Niqueux, Birgit Menzel identifies Russian utopianism as a distinct tradition, counting the following among its sources: Orthodox Christian ideas of theosis or self-deification (obozhenie), transfiguration, universal salvation, and resurrection; Renaissance humanism; atheism; Marx’s idea of the goal of history; Darwinian evolution; and Nietzsche’s idea of the Übermensch (Menzel 2015; Heller and Niqueux 1995). In Menzel’s view, all of these influences are to be seen in various combinations in forms of contemporary Russian transhumanism and other futurisms.

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see later in this introduction, some Russian immortalists critique capitalism precisely for promoting speculative finance as a totalizing anticipatory metaphor. An alternative of traditional socialism, however, seems inadequate as well. As Anastasia Gacheva suggested at the rally mentioned earlier, the socialist-communist project failed not because it was too utopian but because it was not utopian enough in having failed to resolve the issue of time itself. “Nikolai Fedorov was banned in Soviet times for being too ‘religious,’ ” as she explained to me in conversation on a different occasion. However, in the 1960s, with the beginning of the space era, Fedorov’s ideas started drawing attention. A breakthrough in the understanding of our spatial limitations—the need to venture into space—brought attention to our limitations in time, our short life span. Yet almost one hundred years prior to that, Fedorov was insisting that the two could only be pursued together. “We do not want to outrun time [operedit’ vremia],” she added, referring to the familiar Soviet idea of being ahead of time. “We want to overcome [ovladet’] it.”14 For many of Fedorov’s followers in the early twentieth century, the Bolshevik revolution represented merely an initial step in a revolution taking place on an entirely different scale. Biocosmists, for example, in declaring their two main demands in the slogan “Immortalism and Interplanetarianism,” considered the abolition of private property and human tyranny as only the start of overcoming the larger problem of the tyranny of nature, as well as the tyranny of space and time themselves: We think that the most significant and genuine rights of the person are the right of being (immortality, resurrection, rejuvenation) and the right of free movement in space (and not the alleged rights proclaimed by the bourgeois revolution of 1789). . . . If the first root of evil in individual and social life lies in death (localism in time), then the second root of the same evil is localism in space, that is, the primacy of hearth and home, home town, nation, state, race. Even internationalism is ultimately only a localism in the universe. (Sviatogor 1922a)15 There is no achieving justice in the meantime, until the differences between the living and the dead are overcome, as the dead also have the right to enjoy 14. Anastasia Gacheva, interview by the author, Moscow, July 2015. 15. The page numbers for the citations from the journal Biokosmist are given from a scan of all of the four journal issues in one document obtained from the N. F. Fedorov Museum-Library.

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the outcomes of world revolution—and technological and scientific resurrection is the answer. “Nature,” the Biocosmists wrote, “concerned itself only with the continuation of the species, but the person [lichnost’] dies after a short journey of active life. That is, supposedly, the unbreakable law of nature” (Sviatogor 1922a). If nature subsumes the individual in the collective, so do many utopias. As Fredric Jameson once noted, utopias tend to measure death “in generations rather than in biological individuals,” with this transcendence of individual life often functioning as a “readjustment of individual biology to the incomparably longer temporal rhythms of history itself.”16 In this fashion, utopias seamlessly weave together two dimensions that reappear in the discussions of temporality: “of existential experience (in which questions of memory predominate) and of historical time, with its urgent interrogations of the future.” Paradoxically, as utopias fold existential time into historical time, the latter also becomes the end of history and the end of time (2005, 7). What are the possible ends of historical time? If Russian religious utopias and eschatologies sought a “divinely inspired conclusion to history” (Bethea 1989, xvi),17 socialism offered a humanly engineered version, while Fedorov and the Biocosmists fused the two with the idea of human involvement in resurrection.18 These various futurisms not only attempted to imagine a world ahead and transform our present into this future’s corresponding past but instituted particular modes of temporal orientations and a politics of time. Still, the continuities between religious and secular Russian futurisms should not be overstated: if both Orthodox millenarianism and the socialist project attempted a radical shift in time-space relations, they did so in quite different ways. If Russian Orthodox apocalyptic ideas of the end of time and its eventual 16. Such “ethical depersonalization” is something that Cosmists and transhumanists overtly reject, with the former focusing not only on survival of the species but also on resurrection of each and every individual (chapters 1–2), while other futurists discussed in this book strive precisely for the loss of individuality (chapter 4); see also chapter 1 for the historical example of Aleksandr Bogdanov and his idea of “physiological collectivism.” As Jameson notes, the loss of (bourgeois) individuality is also one of the great anti-utopian themes (2005, 7), yet for Bogdanov it is precisely the goal. 17. Scholar of Russian literature David Bethea draws strict distinctions between the notions of “eschatology,” “apocalypse,” and “utopia” (1989, 14–15), while I use them more loosely in this book. 18. The views of Fedorov and the Biocosmists differ significantly in how resurrection is conceptualized, since for Fedorov, despite being the product of human engineering, it is still part of a divine plan (see chapter 2).

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folding into eternity created particular expectations that might indeed recall the socialist utopian goal, socialism not only transformed the individual sense of time but also produced particular socioeconomic and political institutions and orientations. Scholars of Soviet socialism have long noted that the entire history of Marxism and Leninism had to do with attempting to reorder the human relationship to time (Hanson 1997), while time itself became a distinct arena for the exercise of political power (Buck-Morss 2000). Buck-Morss argued that the Russian revolution was understood as an advance in time, as supposed to conquer backwardness, which reverses the European geopolitical understanding of history as “space over time.” As Lenin famously proclaimed in 1918, commenting on his willingness to sign the treaty of Brest-Litovsk ceding Ukraine to the Germans: “I want to concede space . . . in order to win time” (Buck-Morss 2000, 24). Space was for socialist regimes only a means to an end: territorial isolation provided a possibility to “catch up” with the industrial West. In its famous Stalinist iteration, what had taken Western Europe one hundred fifty years, the USSR had to cover in just ten. While everyone in Russia had to speed up time—go “tearing along on the fast locomotive of history”—some people had more work to do than others, as they were pegged even further back on the timeline. Indigenous peoples, in particular, were thought to be stuck in the “primitive” stage of development, and so had to “race like the wind,” skipping entire historical eras (conceptualized as evolutionary stages in the development of mankind) in order to emerge from their “backwardness” into socioeconomic modernization (Slezkine 1994, 200). It was to be hoped in the ideal situation that “primitive peoples” might even skip the entire feudal and capitalist stages, leaping straight into socialist and eventually communist futures.

The Future as the Common Cause This particular hierarchizing of locations according to their position in relation to the desirable future is aptly captured in the iconic image of the “progressor” in Soviet science fiction as imagined by the famous Strugatsky brothers, a pair of Russian science fiction writers from the Soviet period. Progressors are people from the more advanced space-faring civilizations (usually from communist Earth) who are sent secretly to less advanced planets on what amounts to modernizing civilizing missions. Progressors embed themselves in “backward” societies, working from the inside to lift them into the next stage. (In

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later Strugatsky fiction civilizations more advanced than Earth appear with their own progressors interfering in more “backward” planets’ affairs.)19 Transhumanist activists subscribe to the progressors’ politics of temporality, introducing a voluntarist element into the social evolutionism derived from Marx and Engels via Lewis Henry Morgan, whose ideas were widely adopted in the USSR. Their heroic ethos, still recalling the rhetoric of Sovietera slogans, nevertheless diverges from the typical progressor path steeped in secrecy and conspiracy, in the emphasis put on working together as key to reaching the common goal, the latter hinting at Russian immortalism’s characteristically collectivist foundations with its particular genealogy. While strongly identifying with the progressors being besieged by “backward” society, contemporary immortalists do away with the secrecy and work tirelessly to spread their ideas. As one Russian transhumanist manifesto puts it: To be a transhumanist means to be a member of humanity’s most progressive ranks, to carry light among the dark stars, to be the first in everything. Transhumanists are just like the progressors from Strugatsky novels. They are the ones who strive tirelessly for their goals and lead humanity after them. You can ask: What is to be done to enter the future successfully? That is a really important and difficult question. For starters, we need to understand that no one has any chance doing it alone; only together can we survive 19. The Strugatsky brothers Arkadii (1925–91) and Boris (1933–2012) have been the subject of many English-language academic studies (Howell 1994; Gomel 1995; Potts 2007), but recently there seems to be a revival of interest in them, as their science fiction is increasingly yielding new metaphors for the present. Cultural theorist Ilya Kukulin explores a relationship between the Strugatskys’ progressors and the methods of the “alternative social engineering” (proektirovanie) being developed in the Soviet Union starting in the 1960s. His ultimate assessment of the progressor trope, however, is negative, suggesting that they represent a deeply undemocratic phenomenon. They are, after all, a small group of people secretly effecting change in society through intrigues and conspiracies. Kukulin concludes that these techniques were eventually adopted by the “political technologists” of our contemporary period (2007). Following Kukulin, Mark Lipovetsky also considers the trope of the progressors significant in the genealogy of the contemporary political moment. His take is even more critical, as he identifies colonial and orientalist undercurrents in the progressor discourse (progressors as colonizers of “backward” planets and societies), eventually comparing the notion of progressorship to Etkind’s notion of internal colonization (Etkind 2011; Lipovetsky 2015). Lipovetsky also traces the evolution of the figure of the progressor in the Strugatskys’ work, pointing to the increasing disillusionment of the authors themselves, as they bring out progressors’ darker side and questionable methods that can lead to violence and moral compromise (2015).

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and move to the next stage of development. That is why it is imperative for everyone to participate in transhumanist activities. (transhuman.ru, n.d.)20 This rationalist tradition of the fictional progressors with their particular management of temporalities is one point of identification for technofuturists, but they also see themselves as the successors of the tradition widely known as “Russian Cosmism.” Commonly regarded as one of the most influential movements of the twentieth century in Russia and the Soviet Union, this philosophical tradition is arguably rooted in the ideas of Nikolai Fedorov, the mid-nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox philosopher we have already encountered. Fedorov’s central idea bore on the “common cause” (sometimes translated as the “common task”) he saw as incumbent upon humanity, consisting in putting technology and science to use resurrecting the dead, achieving immortality, populating other planets, and permanently establishing itself in a sort of Edenic “anti-entropic” condition. Fedorov’s writings were banned in the USSR until around the 1970s, when his Soviet-era followers rediscovered his legacy and unveiled a whole genealogy of futurist thought that they would name the “active evolutionary tradition.” Among its representatives, they would place such figures as rocket scientist and forerunner of the Russian space program Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky, and biophysicist Aleksandr Chizhevskii and, from the religious rather than scientific angle, religious philosophers such as Pavel Florensky, Vladimir Solov’ev, and Sergii Bulgakov (Semenova and Gacheva 1993). While transhumanists often refer to what they are doing as “putting Fedorov’s ideas into practice” (“Fedorov would certainly be a transhumanist today,” they like to say), their vision is contested by figures who consider themselves contemporary Cosmists, or fedorovtsy (Fedorovians). While categorized along with futurologists, technoprogressives,21 and transhumanist activists in constituting the larger Russian immortalist community, Fedorovians also differ from them in significant ways. On the one hand, like transhumanists, 20. The best known of the transhumanists today seem to be unaware of the progressors’ darker side and in general tend to use the progressor trope without showing any deep knowledge of the complex sociophilosophical layers in the Strugatskys’ work. 21. Euro-American transhumanist authors sometimes use the term “technoprogressive” to signify transhumanists who are democrats, as opposed to libertarians. Both libertarian transhumanists and technoprogressives are ideologically opposed to “bioconservatives,” who could be both left and right wing (Overview of Biopolitics, n.d.). See also Hughes 2014 for a detailed overview of trans- and posthumanist politics.

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Fedorovians have as their aim achieving immanent immortality, even to the extent of using technoscience to bring people back to life who have already died. Unlike most other immortalists, Fedorovians tend to identify as Orthodox Christians, while interpreting Christianity in very particular ways. Adhering to the Orthodox Christian idea of theosis (obozhenie), meaning transforming oneself in god’s likeness (which for Fedorovians also includes immortality and the ability to resurrect the dead), Fedorov’s followers reinterpreted Christianity as a “religion of action,” issuing a call to act in the world, transforming it and overcoming its mortal nature. In this, their vision does not align with the official Russian Orthodox Church, which opposes any such view of resurrection, as it does all kinds of human enhancements. Fedorovians, on the contrary, lend their (cautious) support to some biotechnologies, such as regenerative medicine, gene editing, and cloning (if used for the purposes of regeneration). As Gacheva explained to me, “Fedorov’s ideas are close to those of biotechnology, because he talked about how we should learn from nature itself.” Evolution gives certain species fur, claws, ability to mimic. It provides for certain mutations. Some lizards grow their tails back. But humans can’t grow anything back. We should learn from nature how to achieve these kinds of transformations, so that we can launch regenerative processes in our own body.22 Fedorovians converge with transhumanists on many matters: immortalism, human enhancement, and even theosis, as transhumanist aspirations might be read as a secularized version of this notion. Yet while qualifying as technoprogressives, Fedorovians reject what they dismissively call “prosthetic civilization,” emphasizing instead “organic progress” (organicheskii progress)—a term coined as an alternative to the idea of “technical progress.” Organic progress refers to the self-directed evolution of the body in a way that does not presuppose reliance on machines as external organs, to the point of furthering the evolution of matter itself. If transhumanists often view our future as inevitably cyborgian, with the human body merging with machines and the brain with 22. Anastasia Gacheva, interview by the author, Moscow, August 2015. As medical anthropologist Linda Hogle writes, the discourse of regenerative medicine, as exemplified in tissue engineering, “promises the ability to redirect biology using the body’s natural processes.” This, however, includes not only self-repair but also building new parts outside the body (2003, 63).

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artificial intelligence, Fedorovians propose to remain human while redesigning the body by reorganizing the very matter of life.

Trans- or Posthuman? A Brief Guide Transhumanism raises the question of what it would mean to become “posthuman,” even while that issue presupposes an answer to the question of what it means to be “human” in the first place. The question of the “human” is central to my explorations in this text, so clarifying one important distinction is in order. Considerable confusion exists both in the academic literature and in public discussion concerning the difference between transhumanism and posthumanism, with many scholars treating them as synonyms. Exacerbating the confusion, both transhumanists and posthumanists frequently use the term “posthuman” to refer to the humans of the future. Despite these seeming parallels, it is key to remember that the positions held by trans- and posthumanism, in fact, are almost complete opposites (Fuller and Lipinska 2015; Ranisch and Sorgner 2014; Wolfe 2010). If transhumanism can be loosely defined as a position advocating radical transformation of the human condition through technological enhancement, posthumanism is harder to nail down, referring to a set of ideas purporting to signify a break with humanism. As Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska write, “Whereas posthumanism may be seen in the broad sweep of Western intellectual history as ‘counter-Enlightenment,’ transhumanism is better seen as ‘ultra-Enlightenment’: The former sees the Enlightenment as having gone too far, the latter not far enough” (2015). In this sense, transhumanism might be seen as an “intensification of humanism” (Wolfe 2010, xv), “a type of hyperhumanism” (Ranisch and Sorgner 2014, 8), while posthumanism is more a critique aimed at dismantling the unsatisfactory notions involved in what is seen as the failures of humanism. Among the latter are what posthumanists take to be the persistent “Western” dualities of nature/culture, man/woman, subject/object, human/animal, and body/mind (ibid.). Unlike transhumanists, posthumanists disagree with the privileging of the human and attempt to decenter it “through its imbrication in technical, medical, informatics, and economic networks,” since these historical developments require new theoretical paradigms (Wolfe 2010, xv–xvi). It may seem that posthumanism does what some strains of anthropology, feminist theory, and deconstruction have been doing for decades, but not every critique of humanism is posthumanist. The

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critical point is that posthumanists question humanism through a particular lens, namely that of technology, and in that they converge with transhumanism, as both transhumanism and posthumanism question the “human” in the framework of “coevolution” with technology (Ranisch and Sorgner 2014, 7–8). Philosopher of science Steve Fuller usefully offers a kind of a litmus test to distinguish the two strains of thought, consisting of the answers to four questions. Instead of summarizing it narratively, I compiled Fuller’s four questions and possible answers (Fuller 2014, 201–2) into a chart. According to Fuller, these distinctions reproduce two main modern evolutionary frameworks: the teleological Lamarckian (transhumanist) and the non-teleological Darwinian (posthumanist) (2014, 201–2). Transhumanists might disagree on theories of evolution. Most transhumanists claim to be Darwinian, while believing that the break comes now, when humanity achieves the ability to make evolution purposeful through biotechnology. Some of my Fedorovian interlocutors espouse a third theory, called nomogenesis. Developed by the Russian biologist Lev Berg (1876–1950), nomogenesis is a theory of nonrandom, law-governed evolution (Berg 1922).23 Despite these disagreements, however, based on positions on the issues given in the chart, most of the protagonists of this book, including religious futurists, would fall squarely into the transhumanist rather than posthumanist camp. Most would agree with philosopher Michael Hauskeller’s assessment: Haraway famously concluded her Manifesto with the statement that she’d rather be a cyborg than a goddess. These words signify alternative utopias. What distinguishes posthumanists from transhumanists is this: while posthumanists would rather be cyborgs than goddesses or gods, transhumanists wish to be both, but if they had to choose, they would much rather be gods. (Hauskeller 2014, 107) Hauskeller illuminates here the humanist foundations of transhumanism. If Haraway’s metaphor of the cyborg (1991a) signified a desire to decenter the human, making the cyborg a significant rhetorical figure, the transhumanists’ cyborg is only a means to an end—a step toward the enhanced human, who in the ideal case achieves godlike powers to transform the world. 23. Historian Sergei Glebov writes that Berg’s ideas of nomogenesis, as well as his antiDarwinism, resonated with the Eurasianist movement of the 1920s and 1930s, which attempted to carve a particular kind of Russian identity and define a distinctive, non-European modernity for Russia through the geopolitical concept of “Eurasia” (2017, 170–71).

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Table I.1. Trans- or Posthuman?* Issue

Posthumanism

Transhumanism

Default attitude toward humanism

It is a fundamentally flawed idea used to alienate humans and dominate nature.

Sources of conflict between science and religion (using the JudeoChristian example)

The conflict exists because Abrahamic religions continue to privilege the human, despite the fact that humans’ central position has been consistently dislodged by science, including the findings of Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud. Our highly developed cerebral cortex that marks us as a species is just a genetic quirk that will eventually undermine our descendants, becoming more of a liability. Evolution is blind, and it makes no sense for our successor species to claim that it consciously improved upon us, just as it would make no sense to claim that we consciously improved on our simian ancestors.

It is a sound ideal flawed by historic excesses that distorted it. The ideal could be more fully realized eventually, if we manage to reorganize ourselves and the environment. The conflict exists because science is increasingly delivering on the promises of the Abrahamic religions, including in how we might overcome our own (animal) nature and realize our divine potential.

Homo sapiens in evolutionary history

Desired normative relationship between successor species and our ancestors

Our cerebral cortex will give us the opportunity to break free from biological evolution altogether, for example, by “migrating” from carbon-based containers to silicon ones. The legitimacy of any future transformation of the human condition depends on the (counterfactual) prospect that we and our ancestors would recognize it as contributing to the realization of our deepest aspirations.

* This text is from Fuller 2014: 201–2, adapted here into a table format.

While some American theorists of posthumanism, including Cary Wolfe, Katherine Hayles, and Donna Haraway, are critical of transhumanism, German philosophers Stefan Sorgner and Robert Ranisch suggest that the two approaches are less distinct than many think. They propose, instead, the term “metahumanism,” referring to thinking that is “in between” (meta) post- and transhumanism (Gane and Haraway 2006; Hayles 1999; Ranisch and Sorgner 2014; Wolfe 2010). The posthumanist critique of transhumanism typically bears on the latter’s alleged contempt for the human body. The “posthuman” of transhumanists, it is argued, is “achieved by escaping or repressing not just its animal origins in nature, the biological, and the evolutionary” but also its very materiality and embodiment. Transhumanists, the argument

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goes, inherited the “fantasy” of the autonomous liberal subject from rational humanism with its Cartesian dualism, exemplified in the idea that one can “download” “consciousness” onto a computer—according to Haraway, an example of a “blissed-out techno-idiocy” (Hayles 1999; Gane and Haraway 2006, 146; Wolfe 2010, xv). In a different context, however, anthropologist Tom Boellstorff has questioned the very term “posthuman,” convincingly arguing that it presupposes a rather narrow and ethnocentric view of the “human” as necessarily the subject of liberal humanism, thus effacing “the variability of human lifeways” (2008, 29). And, indeed, none of these posthumanist critiques of transhumanism is based on ethnographies of transhumanisms as they actually exist, relying instead, in the main, on published interviews with U.S.-based celebrity figures like Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil. The result is frequently to conflate a very particular form of American techno-utopianism with the broader phenomenon of immortalism, with its manifold genealogies and diversity of forms.24 These genealogies in the Russian case extend to particular interpretations of matter and materialization drawing on sources as diverse as Eastern Orthodox Christianity and dialectical materialism, non-Darwinian ideas of evolutionary progress, and specific theories of collective and ethical human action. As one begins to appreciate notions such as “organic progress,” very different views are represented among Russian immortalists about biological embodiment, some indeed treating it “as an accident of history rather than an inevitability of life” (Hayles 1999, 2) and others advancing distinctive ideas about body and self that are often at odds with Cartesian dualism and mechanistic materialism. Ontological commitments such as these have important implications for our changing understanding of the human, underlying the ongoing biopolitical projects of remaking life and death.

Mortals of the World, Unite! An equally ethnocentric critique of transhumanism and, by association, all technofuturism points to its alleged libertarian politics, which are often linked with the so-called Californian Ideology of Silicon Valley, a variety of 24. Despite considerable literature on transhumanism in philosophy, science studies, and literary criticism, as well as its frequent coverage in the media, there are very few empirically grounded studies of immortalism or transhumanism more generally. For anthropological analyses of American transhumanism, see Farman 2012a, 2012b, 2013; Romain 2010.

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“dotcom neoliberalism” (Barbrook and Cameron [1995] 1996),25 as well as to the overwhelming maleness and whiteness of its adherents. In the Russian case, on the contrary, futurists hold diverse political views and the communities they form are generally not based on traditional politics. While political views within any given group can range widely, running the gamut from right to left, sometimes combining the two, libertarianism is a distinctly minority position. My interlocutors, in particular, expressed views ranging from liberal democratic with sympathies to socialism, to anarchist, to messianic nationalist. There is a strong anticapitalist sentiment among some of the movement’s activists: while some Fedorovians overtly self-identify as “Christian socialists,” secular transhumanists critique technoscientific capitalism for its orientation to short-term growth, destruction of natural resources, and “unhealthy” competition between scientists.26 An important point made by both Fedorovians and left-leaning transhumanists is that capitalism impedes progress; however, rather than discarding its technologies, we need to “repurpose” them toward the common good.27 25. See Turner 2006 for a nuanced account of the techno-libertarian roots of what was to become Silicon Valley—a conflation of influences from the 1960s counterculture, digital utopianism, and ideologies of personal liberation and self-reliance that were deeply antistatist. 26. One of the movement’s leaders, Alexey Turchin, for example, recently produced a long bullet-point list of the reasons why capitalist technoscience will not bring satisfactory results in the domain of life extension, citing profit-oriented competition between private entrepreneurs as antithetical to the public good (2018). Another leading Russian transhumanist, Mikhail Batin, similarly argues that the free-market economy is not conducive to life-extension research. He invokes biological metaphors. Defenders of the free market, he contends, like to compare it to the notion of competition in evolution. But evolution, for him, needs to be understood as “constant perfection of the forms of cooperation” (Batin 2018a). What he appears to allude to is the theory of “mutual aid” in evolution, which was important to Darwin’s reception in Russia (the idea of cooperation rather than “struggle for existence” in evolution, which was fairly mainstream in nineteenth-century Russian biology; see Todes 1989). Among other reasons why life-extension research under capitalism might not only be unsuccessful but also dangerous, Turchin cites the fact that the principle of unlimited growth entails constant growth of consumption that leads to environmental crisis; imperialism and military competition between states that increases the risks of global catastrophe; and the fact that capitalism itself is not interested in humans living longer, as quick succession of generations produces the same economic growth. 27. Such views bear certain resemblance to those of contemporary “left accelerationists” who suggest that capitalism is not only “an unjust and perverted system, but . . . a system that holds back progress” (Williams and Srnicek [2013] 2014). A similar critique of capitalism was advanced by Fedorov, whom left accelerationists include among their key “ancestors,” along

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Is it possible to generalize about the Russian immortalist movement (in which I include not only transhumanists but also Fedorovians and certain other futurists to be encountered in this book) and its composition? Of ten leading figures in the contemporary scene, six are women (five not counting the recently deceased Semenova). The gender balance struck me as roughly equal not only in the leadership but among the followers in the movement, such as people who showed up at seminars and rallies. The better-off transhumanists are the ones employed in the tech and biotech start-up sectors, but, unlike in Silicon Valley, they are so far in the minority. With the exception of Batin and Dmitry Itskov, most live quite modestly, and finances can sometimes be tough, but all have benefited from a certain Soviet stability: most own Soviet-era apartments that they privatized during perestroika; some live with their parents; many have dachas given by the state to their parents and grandparents. Being able to live rent free in these ways allows for a certain flexibility and risk-taking in their life pursuits. Although there was not much intersection between the transhumanists with whom I established contact specifically for this project starting in 2012 and my own circle of friends in Moscow, the general lifestyle was readable and familiar to me. Like my own friends, most were cash poor but time rich, employed in the creative and academic sectors. As for age, Fedorovians tend to be older and more socially conservative, transhumanists younger and more liberal. What, then, unites these women and men of different ages, socioeconomic statuses, political affiliations, and religious convictions? As I hope will become clear in the course of the book, the communities described here draw most generally on a long-standing historical sensibility, expressed as a particular biosociality (Rabinow 1999), in which they feel called upon to unite all humans based on what they claim to be a shared biological condition, namely, human mortality. With its roots in the Fedorovian notion of the “common cause,” this sociality is perhaps best illustrated in the slogan “Smertnye vsekh stran, soediniaites’!” (Mortals of the world, unite!), as advanced in a prerevolutionary manifesto in

with Marx and Veblen (Mackay and Avanessian 2014). In his critique of contemporary capitalism, Fedorov argued that science and technology were currently being used to produce what he called a society of “industrially manufactured toys” (manufakturnye igrushki), whereas they should be redirected to serve the Common Cause of universal resurrection. He advocated that the army, too, should be “repurposed” and used to work toward this common goal. Contemporary Fedorovians make a similar argument regarding Russia’s Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief (MChS) (see Fedorov [1906] 1995b).

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Figure I.1. Vselenskoe delo (The universal cause), cover, 1914.

1914. The authors were two early Fedorovians, one a former Orthodox priestturned-theologian and the other a priest-in-training-turned-philosopher. The slogan draws on the Marxist formula popular among the radical Russian intelligentsia of the time, interpellating both believers and nonbelievers into a new collectivity of the “mortals” (Gorskii and Brikhnichev 1914, 8).28 28. The full citation is “Mortals of all countries, peoples, occupations, ranks, religions, economic statuses, opinions, and convictions—unite! Only in a common and unanimous fight with a common enemy engaged in ceaseless implacable battle, where no power will be wasted, where no weapon will go unused, will we gain our key birthright—the right to immortality.

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Figure I.2. Vselenskoe delo, “Mortals of the world, unite!” excerpt from p. 8 (1914).

A century later, this sociality of the mortals has taken on diverse political forms. In 2012, Russian transhumanists created a new political party called the Party for Life Extension, proclaiming life extension as a basic human right that can only be achieved through “political struggle for the development of basic science.”29 As one of the founders, Mikhail Batin, explained—in a comparison that seemed startling at first—Russian transhumanists were inspired by the AIDS activism of groups like ACT UP in the United States in the 1990s, demanding a response from the American government and lobbying the medical establishment to produce anti-AIDS drugs. At first sight, nothing could be more different than AIDS activism, which makes claims for entitlement based on suffering and speaks of “injury, abjection, and disposability” (Comaroff and Comaroff 2012, 186), and longevity activism, demanding “medications” to extend life for healthy human bodies. Seeing my surprise, Batin clarified by pointing out that it is precisely the notions of the normal and the pathological (cf. Canguilhem [1966] 1989), as well as that of suffering, that transhumanists are attempting to rewrite, arguing that suffering from old age should be recognized as such and treated. If such technologies do not exist quite yet, he insisted they should be urgently developed, summarizing the comparison as follows: We call upon everyone who considers the victory over Death—not in some metaphorical or mystical sense, but in its most direct, simple, and literal one—possible and desirable—to come together and unite” (Gorskii and Brikhnichev 1914, 8). 29. See Party for Life Extension 2015. The party originally planned to run candidates but stalled owing to the convoluted bureaucratic procedures related to registration. The name is now used to signify a movement rather than a traditional political party.

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The anti-AIDS movement brought so many completely different people together who were united by the common cause: to stop dying from AIDS. The most important thing was they had to change society’s outlook on the disease, which many at the time still viewed as a divine punishment for gays and drug addicts. We need to do the same for life extension and, ultimately, immortality. People everywhere should stop viewing death as inevitable, understand that life extension is a right, and demand that their governments fund research and clinical trials, as well as ensure equal access to life-extending technologies. If the early Fedorovians rephrased the Marxist slogan to draw parallels between the struggles of the workers and the mortals, recognizing both fights as inherently political, the self-identification of transhumanists as patient activists reveals a great deal about the current political moment. The AIDS comparison resonated with many movement members. Alexey Turchin, the cofounder with Batin of the Party for Life Extension and author of several popular books on transhumanism, refers to the 2012 documentary film How to Survive a Plague, chronicling AIDS activism, as a guide for action. The trailer for the same film was discussed by another transhumanist activist as an “instruction in social campaigns against aging” and indeed was often used in lectures and presentations by transhumanists in strategic discussions about how to propagate their ideas.30 Thus, rather than espousing any particular political ideology, transhumanists rely on a form of belonging and activism known as biological citizenship (Petryna 2002; Rose and Novas 2005)—a form of citizenship where rights claims and demands for care and access to resources are made on a biological basis, such as “an injury, shared genetic status, or disease state” (Mulligan, n.d.). These social movements have a “utopian and highly political edge” (Heath, Rapp, and Taussig 2004, 158), producing particular “political economies of hope” (Rose and Novas 2005, 447)—for example, that new biotechnologies will be able to treat or cure certain genetic diseases. In this context, as Rose and Novas suggest, “biology is no longer blind destiny, 30. “Kak perezhit’ chumu. Treiler. Instruktsiia po obshchestvennym kampaniiam protiv stareniia? [How to survive a plague. Trailer. Instruction in social campaigns against aging?],” https://vk .com /videos29464704 ?z = video29464704 _164286059 %2Fpl _29464704 _ -2, accessed July 2017. In the summer of 2016, I attended an event where Turchin used images of big rallies in support of Bernie Sanders to illustrate his point that transhumanism should become a mass movement.

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Figure I.3. Anastasia Gacheva and Valerija Pride at the celebration of Fedorov’s birthday. This annual event organized by Gacheva takes place in the courtyard of an apartment building of Vasilii Borisov, a long-time member of the Fedorov Society, who transformed a drab Moscow yard into an intricate garden filled with exotic plants and rock sculptures called the Eden of Resurrection. Moscow, June 7, 2015. Photo by the author.

or even foreseen but implacable fate. It is knowable, mutable, improvable, eminently manipulable” (ibid., 442). Citizens are called upon to think about what they could do in the fight, encouraging action and responsibility (ibid., 453). Indeed, “Chto ty sdelal dlia bessmertiia?” (What have you done for immortality?) is one of the favorite slogans of Russian immortalists, who view their activity as a form of citizen activism and utopian politics.31 Using contemporary patient advocacy movements as a model, immortalists call to unite around what they consider a shared “medical” condition—a view that is based on the medicalization of aging and even death.32 While similarly 31. See, for example, Batin 2017. 32. Anthropologists have long noted that biomedical efforts to reduce suffering often focus on repair of individual bodies, while the social origins of suffering, including poverty, discrimination, and inequality, are set aside (Lock 1997; see Kleinman, Das, and Lock 1997 for the elaboration of the notion of “social suffering”). While this characterization might apply to

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reflecting a neoliberal health-care ethos, where patients are to be informed and responsible for their own treatment, unlike other forms of biosocial citizenship based on specific diagnoses, immortalists attempt to transcend identity politics and claims for rights based on difference, aspiring to a truly universal appeal. To do so, however, they face the challenges of redefining the basic notions of life and death, casting mortality as avoidable, potentially curable, and soon to be obsolete.

The Return of the Progressors The existence of such an economy of hope in Russia today seems all the more paradoxical, if not incongruous, as it is exactly the opposite of the otherwise prevalent hopelessness toward the future found in more mainstream intellectual circles. Clearly, utopian discourses and hopes for new beginnings proliferated in prerevolutionary and early Soviet Russia, but many believe that with the collapse of socialism came the end of all kinds of future-making practices and projects. In this view, not only is futurism seen as a thing of the past, but the future itself can only be imagined as the past, as exemplified in the dystopian novels by Vladimir Sorokin, a contemporary writer who portrays Russia of the near future as situated in the ahistorical, mythologized Russian past, where the only sign of modernity is the occasional high-tech gadget popping up in the otherwise medieval setting (Kobrin 2016; Sorokin 2006, 2010). This discourse on the disappearance of the future being espoused by some cultural theorists echoes the dismal views of many opposition leaders who are disillusioned over the apparent impossibility to achieve any real political change in Putin’s Russia. Consider, for example, the recent exchange between Russian journalist Kirill Kobrin and literary theorist Mark Lipovetsky. In his introduction to this interview, Kobrin writes: The Perestroika period returned a common future to the country, having first condemned the “excesses” of the Soviet period, and then the entire Soviet period itself. Strangely, this future looked to be a combination of our own past and someone else’s future: on the one hand, there was the “Russia

some immortalists, others, especially Fedorovians, see the cause of social suffering in the very existence of death, which separates the living and the dead, making “true” kinship impossible and causing social strife. 

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that we have lost” [a nostalgic reference to imperial Russia],33 on the other hand we had a notion of a “normal life, like in normal countries” (that is in the West). . . . And we had an opportunity. People believed in this “normal future.” (Kobrin 2016) If during the Soviet period, Kobrin claims, citizens were called to sacrifice in the present in order to reach a much better future later, now the paradox is that they are asked to sacrifice for no particular future goal. “Progressors like the ones in the Strugatskys’ novels,” says Kobrin, “do not exist today.” Lipovetsky objected, saying that progressors were not “those who necessarily advanced progress” but those who found themselves in the middle of the conflict between “the archaic” and “the modern” and felt the need to act upon it—sometimes without knowing exactly what to do. In this sense, he continued, the situation in the 1960s was not that different from Russia today.34 Not satisfied with Lipovetsky’s normalization of the present situation as not especially anomalous in historical terms, Kobrin pushed him to reflect whether there were any other periods in Russian history completely lacking in a vision of the future. “Did Lenin have a vision of the future? Stalin? Khrushchev? Brezhnev? Gorbachev?” Lipovetsky answered yes to all of these, noting, however, that in Brezhnev’s case the future was a kind of “eternal present.” And he emphasized that the situation is more complicated than that, as one must ask whose image of the future we are looking for. People who live in the same historical period do not always share identical visions of the future (Kobrin 2016). What Kobrin ultimately appeared to prove, however, was not so much that future-making practices are absent in Russia today but that the present government lacks a coherent image of the future—a situation that does, indeed, differ from most of the Soviet period. Reflecting on the role of the state in imagining the future, Kukulin writes that in the Soviet Union, 33. The expression refers to Stanislav Govorukhin’s acclaimed 1992 documentary Rossiia, kotoruiu my poteriali. 34. Lipovetsky interpreted the contemporary situation in Russia as a conflict between “tradition” and “modernity,” which liberal media pitch as “the Russia of the iPhone” against “the Russia of the chanson” (Rossiia aifona i Rossiia shansona). In this “meme,” started by the journalist Yuri Saprykin, the iPhone signifies Westernized urban intellectuals with their consumer lifestyle, and chanson refers to a genre of prison songs, supposedly beloved by the urban underclass (Saprykin 2010).

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especially in the Stalinist period, no platforms existed for producing collective futures other than the state-approved ones. The state appropriated the role of the primary engineer (proektirovshchik) of the future, not only for its own citizens but for the whole of progressive humanity. It was only in the 1960s, toward the end of the “thaw” period, that there appeared alternative arenas for such projects, including science fiction as well as certain strains of philosophy and pedagogy.35 Kukulin argues that what these circles ultimately created were not so much the visions of the future society as new projects in the transformation of human nature and new narratives of individual self-determination in the context of a repressive society, along with ideas about its slow transformation (2007). The emphasis, therefore, appeared to be on method rather than theory. If the relative Soviet liberalization during the “thaw” of the 1960s relaxed the state’s grip on the narrative control of the future, opening up the space for utopian imaginaries, the “passing of mass utopia” in the late twentieth century (Buck-Morss 2000) opened the door to a wide range of new ideas and propositions for the future of the planet. To explore the most actively futurizing imaginations in Russia today, I turned to four communities that self-identify as modern-day “progressors,” while doing away with the secrecy of their fictional predecessors: transhumanists putting people in cryonic suspension and building robotic bodies (chapter 1); Russian Cosmists rethinking the role of technoscience in light of a particular variant of Orthodox Christian apocalypticism (chapter 2); biogerontologists and bioengineers seeking clues to the mechanisms of aging, with the goal of its eventual “abolition” (chapter 3); and futurologists using methodologies of technological foresight to envision the future of the brain, the mind, and the Internet, effectively merging all the emerging neurotechnologies and spiritual countercultures into an interconnected web (chapter 4). The eschatological moment shared by all four communities is as technocratic as it is apocalyptic, readily anticipating the end to life on Earth as we know it and asking how technology can be used to remake bodies for an immortal age. That many see redemptive technoscience and apocalyptic spiritualties (in both their utopian and dystopian modalities) constituting key spaces of hope and fear suggests how these emergent 35. Kukulin makes an interesting argument by linking two seemingly unrelated cases of alternative social engineering of the 1960s: the Strugatskys’ notion of a progressor and the “action philosophy” (deiatel’naia filosofiia) of G. P. Shchedrovitsky (1929–94), a Soviet polymath and the leader of the “Moscow methodology circle.”

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futures are increasingly located outside of the domain of traditional politics and academic discourse.36 In this book, I therefore explore a set of debates around imagining the human—and more broadly the future—debates that lie at the intersection of larger processes involving emerging technologies that are reconfiguring the boundaries between life and death. As these debates fuel a global economy of speculation about technological futures, I show how today’s futurists have drawn on a diverse legacy left by Russian imperial and Soviet thinkers, who advanced original philosophical and scientific systems, anticipating future developments in such disparate fields as astronautics, medicine, and environmental science. While this is not a historical study, I nonetheless introduce many such pioneers of futurology throughout the text as they emerge in the thinking of those with whom I work today. This storied roster of philosophers and scientists includes Nikolai Fedorov and his early followers Aleksandr Gorskii and Nikolai Setnitskii (chapters 1 and 2), Aleksandr Bogdanov (chapter 1), Ilya Mechnikoff (chapter 3), and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Vladimir Vernadsky (chapter 4 and chapter 2). Chapter 1 begins with a consideration of how competing practices of immortalism have been engendered in the Russian transhumanist movement. 36. Incidentally, while anthropology has never ignored the ways in which humans imagined and anticipated the future, the discipline is undergoing a “future boom” right now (Shaw 2013). As of yet, however, these insights have not produced any systematic analysis of future making. As Arjun Appadurai notes, the future has been “more or less completely handed over to economics, with anthropology providing a sort of Greek chorus about diversity, history, cultural values, and the dignity of local ways of living” (2013, 289). Debates over the crucial issues of the future, such as global warming, resources, and military strategy, are being led by fields like neoclassical economics, environmental sciences, and disaster management. Even bioethical debates on cloning and genetic engineering—although not ignored by anthropologists—have not positioned anthropologists as leading voices in public policy, instead leaving us in marginal spaces of “humanist resistance and critique” (Appadurai 2013, 285–86). Alongside these fields, there exists an entire intellectual industry specializing in the “global scenarios” genre, with catchphrases like “the clash of civilizations,” “jihad versus McWorld,” and “soft power” (Hannerz 2015). Appadurai is not the only voice calling on anthropologists to reclaim the discipline’s potential to contribute to the “big picture” by becoming active designers of global scenarios, a call that seems more relevant and urgent than ever (Appadurai 2013; Hannerz 2015; Brumann 2015; Collins 2008). As Collins aptly notes, anthropology has had a rich history of engagements with the future, suggesting that it has potential not only to provide radical alternatives to Western-dominated discourses of the future but also intervene in the process of future-making itself (2008, 11–12). I hope this book will contribute to this endeavor.

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Associated with such practices as cryonics—freezing recently deceased bodies in hopes of future reanimation, a service offered by the Moscow-based KrioRus, the only cryonics company in Eurasia—or plans to build robotic bodies for future “consciousness transfer,” current debates among transhumanists range from fundamental issues of ontology to the immortal bodies and persons achieved through such projects. Drawing on my ethnography of these practices and plans, chapter 1 explores controversies around religion and secularism inside the movement, as well as ongoing disagreements between transhumanists and the Russian Orthodox Church. The core issues in debates over the role of religion vis-à-vis immortality, I argue, derive from the different assumptions being made about “the human” as such—which from prerevolutionary esoteric futurist movements through the Soviet secularist project and into the present day has been and remains a profoundly plastic project. Chapter 2 continues the theme of immortalism and religion, shifting the focus to contemporary Russian Cosmism as exemplified by the Fedorov movement. Cosmism offers a striking example of how it is possible to combine immortalist views with Orthodox Christianity and at the same time ardently embrace scientific advancements. The concern in the first chapter was with debates over religion and secularism inside the transhumanist movement and between transhumanists and the Russian Orthodox Church. Now, by taking a closer look at contemporary Cosmism, the book explores ontological differences separating the Cosmists and transhumanists. Tracing the movement’s genealogies back to Fedorov and his early twentieth-century followers, the chapter explores key ideas about embodiment, materiality, and evolution, as well as the role of Orthodox Christianity in Cosmist projects. Understanding these earlier debates, in addition to their contemporary incarnations, with Fedorovians weighing in on topics ranging from cryonics to cyborgs to human enhancement, can help us situate the differences among competing conceptions of immortality and resurrection, as well as among those of science, religion, and the human in the larger Russian immortalist field. Chapter 3 derives from my research in Russian anti-aging circles, which are trying to bring the issues of aging to national attention. This diverse community includes gerontologists, biologists, transhumanist activists of various stripes (some of whom are also scientists), lobbyists, and science and technology start-up entrepreneurs. What they encompass under “issues of aging,” however, is not what we usually think about as healthy aging—although that could be part of the agenda—but what the activists refer to as “radical life extension” (radikal’noe prodlenie zhizni), which serves effectively as a socially

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acceptable way to talk about immortality. I argue that this turning of public attention to aging is being pursued though two related strategies. One is the medicalization of aging, expressed in the transhumanist formula that “aging is a curable disease.” The other is the ethicization of aging, by which I mean reframing the problem of old age in moral terms, as exemplified in alarmistsounding statements like “aging kills 100,000 people every day.” These two ideas together amount to a rethinking of human suffering. Aging is reconceptualized as the prime cause of suffering, and anti-aging technologies are conceived in terms of their emancipatory and liberatory potential. Together with the rethinking of suffering comes a rethinking of the very definitions of life, death, and the political. Chapter 4 switches gears. Here I investigate the interplay between the technological and the national, the market oriented and the visionary by looking at a distinct group of futurists involved in a project called NeuroNet, a kind of Web 4.0 that enables collective consciousness through brain-computer interfaces. This chapter takes note of the project’s methodological (created through foresight methods) and spiritual roots, tracing the way in which it is currently moving from the imagination of its amateur enthusiasts to more established scientists and on into the upper echelons of power. By tracking what kinds of bodies and minds emerge from this entanglement of brains, machines, and the Internet, the chapter links NeuroNet to the larger questions raised in the book related to fundamental notions of the human. The diverse thinkers and self-proclaimed designers of the future introduced in this book—both past and present—are united in that they think in terms of the longue durée, thinking not only beyond the nation but also beyond the planet. From the standpoint of this cosmic framework, they are attempting to both join and intervene in the global conversation, forging in the meantime their own visions of what it means to be human now and into the future.

1 Freeze, Die, Come to Life T h e M a n y Pat h s t o I m mor ta l i t y

“Just look at that enormous line,” said Mikhail Batin. “Our competitors for eternal life.”1 Batin is director of the Moscow-based Science for Life Extension Foundation. He was pointing at a long line of worshippers across the river from his stylish office in the former Red October chocolate factory who were waiting to get into the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. “But what do you expect? They have a two-thousand-year-old brand, millions of loyal consumers, efficient sales offices, connections in the government. Hey, people! Why don’t you come to us instead?” Turning to me, he summarized: All they have is good marketing. There is no guarantee of quality, and you won’t be able to drop the service if something goes wrong. Our competitors have been caught red-handed—many times—scamming their customers. But here we are honest and don’t make things up. The Earth rotates around the Sun, there is nothing after death, living is good and dying is bad. Just think, maybe you would like to just stay alive, rather than justify death with these religious fantasies?

A short version of this chapter first appeared as an article in American Ethnologist (Bernstein 2015). 1. Zamri, umri, voskresni (Freeze, Die, Come to Life, 1989) is a Soviet dramatic film directed by Vitalii Kanevskii. The title refers to a Russian children’s game similar in some ways to the game known in parts of the world as “statues” and in the United States as “red light, green light.” 35

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The targets of Batin’s tirade were pilgrims—women with their heads covered, men holding children in their arms, the sick and disabled faithful—who, one day in 2013, spent nearly seven hours standing in line to venerate the cross of St. Andrew the Apostle, a relic brought from the Greek city of Patras to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in celebration of the 1,025th anniversary of the baptism of Russia. The cathedral, demolished by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s and then rebuilt in the 1990s, had made news as the setting of the infamous “punk prayer” unleashed in 2012 by the feminist collective Pussy Riot beseeching the Mother of God to oust then prime minister Vladimir Putin from power. The two-year prison sentences the women received for their efforts were controversial, making secularism among the most hotly debated subjects in Russia. In the aftermath of the Pussy Riot trial, there were roundtables, TV shows, special issues of popular magazines, and endless private debates in cramped Russian kitchens devoted to the place of religion in public life and whether Russia is (or should be) a secular or religious state.2 Among liberal commentators, both domestic and abroad, it has become customary to consider contemporary Russia a state in which secularism is in decline. It is to these debates that Batin, along with fellow transhumanists, aspire to contribute. As we saw in the introduction, transhumanism is the name of an international intellectual and cultural movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing the tools to accomplish a “radical upgrade” of the human being. In Russia the movement is represented by diverse groups focused on promoting life extension and ultimately achieving immortality through such technologies as cryonics (freezing dead bodies in liquid nitrogen in hopes of a future revival) and “mind uploading” or “mind transfer,” the hypothetical possibility of separating the mind from the biological brain and “copying” it to “nonbiological platforms.” They are also active politically, lobbying the government for better funding of scientific research on aging and life extension. Anthropologists have generally viewed transhumanism (cryonics, in particular) as a uniquely U.S. preoccupation, casting cryonics as a form of capitalist investment in the future (Romain 2010) that produces a shift in temporalities best understood in terms of a secular eschatology (Farman 2012a). However, in Russia, such secular eschatologies have a much longer history, going back to nineteenth-century techno-utopias. Nikolai Fedorov, 2. On the Pussy Riot and similar court cases, see Bernstein 2013b, 2014a; Gapova 2012. On religion and secularism in Russia and the Soviet Union, see Anderson 2007; Bernstein 2014b; Knox 2003, Luehrmann 2011; Papkova 2011; Rogers 2005; Smolkin 2018; Wanner 2012.

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considered the founder of the intellectual tradition that later became known as Russian Cosmism, called for the technological resurrection of the dead, as well as for the colonization of space to accommodate this new population, anticipating many themes later advanced by such diverse turn-of-the-century intellectuals as the rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, biochemist and geologist Vladimir Vernadsky, physician and revolutionary Aleksandr Bogdanov, futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, and many others. The revolution was not to stop after transforming the social order but extend to the biological and the evolutionary by working with the body itself. The human body must be intentionally redesigned to put an end to the “extreme anatomical and physiological disharmony” that results in “wearing out of organs and tissues,” wrote the revolutionary Marxist Leon Trotsky in 1924 ([1924] 2005, 207). Or, as Biocosmist Aleksandr Sviatogor had opined a few years earlier, “The struggle for social justice necessarily leads to a struggle against death.”3 He argued for portraying death no longer as a skeleton, as in ages past, but as a “fat bourgeois”: “Exploiter—the bourgeois—that is the most exact image of death” (1922b). “Death is . . . logically senseless, ethically unacceptable, and aesthetically ugly,” he wrote in a different essay. “This victory [over death] will be the victory of fairy tales and miracles,” the latter being the wonders of technoscientific advancements. “The victory of cosmic motors. The victory of rejuvenating Steinach and resurrecting Christ” (1922c). The joining of Austrian physiologist Eugene Steinach, whose theories of rejuvenation were popular in Russia and globally in the 1920s, with the image of Christ’s resurrection is all the more striking given the otherwise antireligious and anticlerical tone of the piece.4 Yet what the odd amalgam reflects is Sviatogor’s acceptance of a certain modification of the classic Marxist approach to the relationship between religion and science, in which religion is only “the opium of the people” if it feeds ideas about the immortality of the soul to the detriment of the immanent one. As long as the goals of religion and science are aligned, there is no contradiction—a view we will see being upheld by 3. Sviatogor’s real last name was Agienko. 4. Sviatogor expressed his critique of the church as follows: “The church professes the Christ of mortification but not the Christ of resurrection. Christ’s commandment to ‘resurrect the dead’ turned out to be too great a challenge for the church. On the contrary, Christ as a preacher of death in the name of an illusory otherworldly immortality proved an acceptable alternative for the narrow and cowardly consciousness of the church. That is why the church will always be in alliance with those who are in league with death. The bourgeoisie, the clergy, and the sycophants—these are the three images of death . . . the death-bearing trinity” (1922b, 25).

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a variety of different communities throughout this book. So prominent was this constellation of revolutionary, scientific, and religious imaginaries in the public sphere at the time that the preservation of the body of Vladimir Lenin was read not only as anticipating his future reanimation but also by some as a modern version of the religious relic.5 From the embalmed body of Lenin to the sixty bodies frozen since the founding of the first cryonics company in postsocialist Russia in 2006,6 issues bearing on the corporeal as such have been central to sometimes overlapping discussions of secularism and immortality. Since most transhumanists believe in the inevitability of physical immortality, as opposed to the immortality of the soul foreseen in some religions, a key debate in Russian transhumanist circles revolves around what constitutes an immortal body and how exactly it is to be achieved. While some believe that immortality will be gained exclusively by means of cutting-edge secular science, others creatively blend science with transcendental technologies of the body drawn from various religions. Indeed, many wonder just how “secular” the immortal body can be, as accepting this modern vision presupposes a considerable leap of faith, not unlike 5. See Tumarkin 1997. See Alexei Yurchak’s work for a convincing deconstruction of this notion, in which he rereads Lenin’s embalmment in terms of the complex political role his preserved body played in the Soviet period and today. As he reports, scientists working in the Mausoleum Lab find the “occasional speculations in the media” of Lenin’s “revival” preposterous, as his body is missing many organs, including the brain (Yurchak 2015, 152). It is interesting that, although Lenin’s body was ultimately embalmed, freezing his body was one of the options discussed by the Communist Party’s Central Committee (ibid., 125–26). See also Yurchak 2017. The myth of Lenin’s intended “resurrection,” however, is very tenacious in the popular imaginary, especially among Fedorovians, past and present, who widely believe this to have been the case (see the mention of Lenin in the work of Nikolai Setnitskii discussed in chapter 2). One transhumanist, in conversation with me, expressed regret that Lenin was embalmed and not frozen, because “had Lenin been frozen, Russia would have been the world leader in cryobiology.” Cryobiology, in this context, is viewed as the most promising cutting-edge science, whereas from the point of view of advancing immortality, embalming (pardon the pun) is a dead end. Interview by the author, Moscow, 2013. On the role of cryobiology research in cryonics, see Parry 2004. Parry also points to what she sees as the “central tension” between cryonics and cryogenics, the science of the effects of low temperatures. The future success of cryonics in freezing bodies for reanimation depends on progress in cryogenics and cryobiology, and the latter is able to move forward as a result of other people—the ones who did not choose cryonic suspension—dying and donating their tissues and organs for research (ibid., 398). 6. These data are current as of May 2018. The list of cryopreserved patients is available at KrioRus, n.d.

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that demanded by the religious traditions many transhumanists oppose. Here I suggest that the significance of the debate about immortality launched by transhumanists reaches beyond techno-utopian imaginaries, as it exhibits many of the same tensions inhering in what is conventionally understood as the contest between “the religious” and “the secular” that have so animated public life in Russia since the Soviet collapse. In his work on secularism, Talal Asad starts from the assumption that “the secular” itself—a variety of practices, concepts, and sensibilities formed over time—precedes the political doctrine calling for the separation of church and state. The secular, Asad says, is such a part of modern life that it has become something like the water in which we swim: hard to grasp directly. He proposes studying secularism through its “shadows,” those practices and discourses that indirectly challenge secular imaginaries such as notions of myth and “passionate” agency and attitudes toward pain (Asad 2003). If, in Formations of the Secular, Asad examined embodied practices running against the grain of secular rationalism, recently he has taken up the connection between secularism and the body more directly, in response to Charles Hirschkind, who provocatively asks whether there is such a thing as a “secular body.” Indeed, while the religious body has become the subject of a voluminous academic literature, defining what exactly a secular body might be has proven elusive for transhumanists and anthropologists alike. Asad (2011) and Hirschkind (2011) speculate about whether distinct sensibilities, affects, and embodied dispositions might distinguish the secular body and whether answering this question might have relevance for secularism as a political system. Continuing this line of inquiry but focusing on the contradictions within “the secular,” Abou Farman (2013) demonstrates how cryopreserved bodies in the United States are produced through the secular institutions of law and medicine yet are often in conflict with them. Most U.S. transhumanists agree that secularism is a prerequisite of scientific progress. They are, in Farman’s expression, “scientifically oriented secularists.” In post-Soviet Russia, by contrast, secularism has become a subject of heated debate within the transhumanist community, just as it has in broader publics. In this chapter, I consider competing practices of immortality amid robust contemporary debates over fundamental understandings of bodies and persons in Russia. In this context, struggles over secularism and religious life hinge now, as they long have, on defining “the human.” As the briefest of historical surveys shows, from prerevolutionary Russian esoteric futurist movements through the Soviet emancipatory secularist project and into the present day,

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“the human” has been and remains a profoundly plastic project.7 Contemporary Russian transhumanists thus draw on deep conceptual programs born out of both revolution and socialism as well as more recent postsocialist transformations.8 Using transhumanist perspectives as a microcosm for the larger Russian debates, I examine the attitudes, concepts, and sensibilities underlying emergent notions of the human, showing how shifts in the meaning of that construct are crucial for people’s understandings of the distinction between the religious and the secular. Transhumanists do not always agree about what constitutes us as human beings, with views on the mind-body problem ranging from idealism to materialism and from monism to dualism. What they do share is a deep belief in “active evolution,” wherein being human is to be in a state of permanent nonteleological transition and to be able to shape and direct one’s own evolution.9 Perhaps not surprisingly, opposition to this view has come from Russian Orthodox circles. As the Soviet secular utopia has been progressively dismantled since the 1980s, the Russian Orthodox Church has entered the public arena with its own vision of utopian collectivity and related biopolitical agenda. Increasingly finding its mission in resisting what it sees as the importation from the West of alien notions of the human, the Church has taken on what it calls the “challenge of transhumanism” (vyzov transgumanizma), actively opposing transhumanist ideas and practices for the same reasons it opposes homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia—as practices that interfere with the sovereignty of God by tampering with life itself and by encouraging ideas of human redesign and self-mastery. Given the growing political and moral influence of the Orthodox Church in Putin’s Russia, ontological questions of what constitutes the human, how the mind is connected to the body, and whether immortality is desirable gain political traction beyond the domain of speculative philosophy. In Russia, definitions of the human become central to the ongoing renegotiation of perceived boundaries between the secular and the religious in the wake of 7. On the Soviet self as a “plastic substance,” see Oushakine 2004. 8. For recent and classic anthropological accounts of postsocialist transformations, see Balzer 2009; Bernstein 2013a; Buyandelger 2008, 2013; Caldwell 2004, 2010; Dunn 2004; Grant 1995, 2009; Humphrey 1999, 2002; Lemon 2000, 2017; Petryna 2002; Ssorin-Chaikov 2003, 2017; Ries 1997; Rivkin-Fish 2005; Oushakine 2009; Rogers 2009, 2015; Shevchenko 2008; Verdery 1996, 1999; Yurchak 2006. 9. The idea of “active evolution” has been elaborated by Russian scholars of the Fedorovian movement (see chapter 2). See Semenova and Gacheva 1993.

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the collapse of the world’s largest atheist state. Simultaneously, with Russian transhumanists producing novel theories of the relationship between body and person, human and time, and technology and biology, it becomes clear that the stakes are not just Russian but global, amounting to nothing less than the redefinition of the human condition.

KrioRus: Bodies in the Deep Freeze “In 2005 it was nearly impossible to find articles in the media on radical life extension, but now it’s quite common. Everyone is talking about it.” So I was told by Valerija Pride, director of KrioRus, a Russian cryonics company she founded in 2006 with her partner the economist Danila Medvedev and biophysicist Igor’ Artiukhov as director of science. “Eight years ago we launched a huge PR campaign. Our ideas were really well received on completely different levels—from the liberal media to high-level government officials. Even the pro-Putin youth movement Nashi caught the bug.” KrioRus occupies a modest two-room apartment on the ground floor of an attractive building in Moscow’s historic center. The front room offers cozy office space, and in the back a loft accommodates sleeping comrades-in-arms (not, employees assured me, dead). When I arrived, I was greeted by Zhenia, a young volunteer in his early twenties. It was my first meeting with Valerija, and she was running late. To entertain me while I waited, Zhenia showed me items from the company’s online shop, called Tovary iz budushchego (Goods from the future).10 Among the items he highlighted were a 3D printer, which printed little blocks and other shapes, a bottle with a built-in water purifier, and a small cardboard container, like a juice carton, containing a liquid meal replacement. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, there were cameras. The policy at the KrioRus office was for everything to be recorded, as transhumanists believe that archiving as much information as possible about a person offers the best chance for “digital immortality,” a future in which the person’s personality can be restored. Valerija arrived, brimming over with apologies for being late. She was a thin, energetic woman in her fifties who spoke very fast. Before settling in for conversation, she pointed one of the cameras directly at me. “Last month we froze four people,” she said. “Four people in one month! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a world record. That means society is ready for this. Maybe because 10. See http://style2030.ru/about, accessed May 5, 2015.

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we’re used to grand projects—the Soviet Union, the exploration of space. Our scientist Tsiolkovsky said we should live for a thousand years. Already in the 1970s the Soviet gerontologist Lev Komarov organized symposia on artificial life extension. However,” she admonished, shaking her finger, “gerontologists have different goals than ours. They only study aging, while we are determined to fight it.” I found myself pondering the famous line from Karl Marx about merely understanding the world as opposed to changing it, recognizing the very quintessence of the transhumanist worldview in Valerija’s self-definition. It is possible to radically transform human nature, she was saying, and the place to start is the human body: Our bodies are incredibly imperfect. We get old, we get sick. Even if our health is great, we can’t see well at night, we can’t fly. . . . To put it briefly, things are pretty dire. I’m not satisfied. I want to be able to swim underwater without having to breathe. But I’m unable to do this. So I want an upgrade. Upgrade my health. Upgrade my intellect. And transhumanists have other long-term visionary projects, beyond upgrading one’s body. They are devoted to exploring space, peopling other planets, and even “upgrading” animals to the level of rational conscious beings. Yet perhaps the greatest goal of all, shared by most transhumanists, is radical life extension and, ultimately, immortality. Death, to them, is the single greatest obstacle to transforming the human condition. They call those who consider death inevitable “deathists” (smertniki)—a term uttered with contempt. Says Mikhail Batin, “I think life is a colossal tragedy. Everything goes well—people enjoy life, study, get married, get divorced, have aspirations, build careers. . . . And then they start rotting alive. They suffer enormously, their vital organs fail, they become less and less intelligent, and they die in pain. And this happens over and over.” If in some worldviews, both religious and secular, death gives human life meaning, in the opinion of transhumanists, death renders life hopelessly meaningless because it effectively annuls the continuity of human achievement. According to Batin, death should be considered a curable disease, similar to cancer. Transhumanists like Valerija and Mikhail are not willing to wait for scientists to find the time and funding to work on a cure for death. They declare cryonics—the freezing of recently deceased bodies in liquid nitrogen—the best choice in a bad situation. Cryonicists’ reasoning recalls Pascal’s wager. If you sign a contract with us, they say, and we cryonize your body and it

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doesn’t work, you die. If you don’t sign a contract with us and don’t cryonize your body, you die anyway. Choose cryonics—that is your only chance to live. Cryonicists have a distinctly relativist understanding of death. Indeed, their take intersects with anthropological investigations into sociocultural constructions of death, both inside and outside biomedical regimes, but especially within them, as the medical community is constantly pressured by new technologies to revise its own definition of death (Franklin and Lock 2003; Kaufman and Morgan 2005; Lock 2001). Like anthropologists, Russian cryonicists regard the medical definition as a product of particular histories and as subject to change. They regard death not as a single event but as a three-stage process: Stage 1: The body ceases to function as a whole. This, cryonicists say, is what we normally understand as death, in the sense inherited from past medical knowledge and beliefs. During Stage 1 many organs and cells continue to work because their structures have not yet been destroyed. Stage 2: The body is partially destroyed. Stage 3: The full, irreversible physical decomposition of the body sets in. It is in this latter sense, say cryonicists, that the term “dead” will be understood by the medicine of the future, and this is how they claim to view death now. Once technologies have been invented that offer a “gut renovation” (kapital’nyi remont) of the body, full restoration at Stage 2 becomes a possibility. Characteristically, cryonicists do not refer to frozen people as “dead” but as “cryo-patients” (kriopatsient). They treat them as if they were alive, waiting in suspended animation to be reawakened. In Valerija’s summary, people who dismiss cryonics by saying that frozen people are dead simply misunderstand the term: “That argument is based on a long outdated understanding of death as a single event. What does it mean when we say, ‘He died’? Does it mean the doctor signed off on the death? But who is the doctor? Is he God? The process of death is slow. What is the exact moment of death?” Contrary to some widespread misconceptions, cryopreservation involves more than simply throwing people into containers filled with liquid nitrogen. First a patient is injected with anticoagulant to prevent the blood from clotting, which is followed by a procedure called “perfusion,” in which trained volunteers gradually cool the body to −196° Celsius. The patient’s blood is drained and replaced by a special solution called “cryoprotectant,” a kind of human antifreeze that prevents the formation of the ice crystals that would otherwise destroy the tissues. But the first and foremost obstacle is procuring the body itself. Whenever someone under contract for cryopreservation is found out to be dying in a hospital, cryonicists dispatch a standby team to guide the process

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once a doctor has declared the patient dead. The deceased will in all likelihood have written a living will, specifying that she or he did not wish to be autopsied and did not want to be an organ donor. Nevertheless, under Russian law, if the patient dies in a hospital, the only way to avoid autopsy is for a relative of the deceased to fill out a special form called an Otkaz ot vskrytiia (refusal to be autopsied) addressed to the head physician of the clinic.11 Scholars have pointed to the way the production of a cryonic body relies on a series of rhetorical performatives—utterances that constitute an action or an order. The refusal to be autopsied, as Richard Doyle notes, is one such act. It is an “initial condition” that “must be true for cryonics to hold any promise” (2003, 64). Yet the key performative moment that is eagerly awaited by cryonicists is the declaration of legal death. Indeed, what makes the whole procedure possible is the difference between the respective ontologies of death held by the medical profession and cryonicists. As Farman aptly puts it, at the moment of the declaration of legal death, for the medical professionals, “the dead body cannot be deader. For cryonics teams, a person’s life is about to be saved” (2013, 744). Aside from KrioRus, the only other cryonics companies that boast storage facilities are in the United States, the Cryonics Institute in Michigan and Alcor in Arizona. KrioRus, Valerija proudly points out, is “the first cryonics company in Eurasia.” It offers contracts for two types of cryopreservation, one that freezes the whole body and one that preserves only the brain (neirosokhranenie, or neuropreservation, often glossed in English as neurosuspension). The second option is attractive for people on a budget (as of 2017, it costs $12,000 as opposed to $36,000 for the whole body), but it is also considered by orthodox cryonicists to be more advanced ideologically.12 Since cryonicists believe that personality is located in the brain, the body becomes a secondary issue. Personality, in this view, is constituted by long-term memories recorded in the 11. See a sample refusal of autopsy form here: http://kriorus.ru/Otkaz-ot-vskrytiya-dlya -rossiyskih-bolnic-obrazec. Cryonicists recommend to relatives that they choose the “religious motifs” option as the reason to refuse autopsy. If a patient dies at home without much of a medical history to speak of and no reliable diagnostic record of a preexisting condition, an autopsy still needs to be performed. This happened to one of KrioRus’s patients. After that, cryonicists issued warnings that having one’s medical records in good order during life is another condition for successful cryonizing. 12. Also available are a number of “VIP options” (starting at $150,000) in which patients are outfitted with a “cryo-bracelet,” a special fitness tracker, that allows the cryonics team to track their vital signs in real time.

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cerebral cortex, and if these memories can be preserved, it does not matter what kind of body might be attached to the brain in the future. Cryonicists acknowledge that separating the head from the body is a radical, iconoclastic step, even for fairly advanced adepts. But it also offers a certain compromise in regard to traditional burial practices. While based on the prior agreement of the deceased, cryonics contracts tend to be fulfilled, for obvious reasons, by relatives, many of whom happen to be active in the transhumanist movement. The signed contracts are valid for one hundred years, with automatic extension every twenty-five years if the methods of reanimation have not yet been invented. In 2008, Valerija cryonized her mother, who died of peritonitis, and her assistant Andrei cryonized his father, who succumbed to hepatitis C. Andrei opted for brain-only preservation, because other relatives insisted on a traditional Orthodox burial. The brain went one place for cryopreservation, while the body was buried in a cemetery. To all appearances the body was whole, and the priest performing the ceremony was unaware that his client’s brain had been removed to be frozen.13 “We don’t really have a problem with religious people,” said Valerija. “We personally do not believe in the existence of a soul. But if patients want to throw some Orthodox icons in the cryo-chamber, we are absolutely fine with it.” In films, cryonics typically takes place in a futuristic facility featuring hightech design and pristinely white premises, which is how Valerija and her partner Danila would like their facility to look eventually. The plan is for KrioRus to acquire the real estate needed to build a research center, lab, and cryonics storage facility as a one-stop center of futurist science. It is a dream that almost came true in 2015, when they had a bid in on several buildings in the city of Tver’, with some local politicians’ support, which they ultimately lost.14 As of yet, their storage facility remains located on a private dacha plot near the small town of Sergiev Posad, an hour away from Moscow. My first visit to the storage facility came in late December 2015, when I was invited by some cryonicists for a New Year’s party at the dacha. We left 13. I was told by several transhumanists who cryonized their relatives that this is a common scenario. While brains are preserved, bodies can be either buried or cremated. 14. I accompanied Danila for a promotion trip to Tver’, about a hundred miles from Moscow, where we met with students and local administration. Danila praised the city’s “ideal” location on a high-speed rail between Moscow and St. Petersburg, promising that building a cryo-center would turn Tver’ from a provincial city into a world destination.

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Moscow at dusk and arrived there in complete darkness, driving for a long time across a completely snowed-in poselok (dacha housing development) with winding roads and no house numbers. At some point we lost our GPS connection entirely and seemed to be driving in circles. “The singularity is not as near as I thought,” joked Elena Milova, quipping on a canonic transhumanist text by the American futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near (2006).15 Elena, a single woman in her mid-thirties, had cryonized her beloved cat a few months earlier and this was her first visit to see it. Among other cryonized animals in the facility is Valerija’s dog. And both Valerija and Danila have close relatives stored in the insulated vats called Dewars (Valerija’s mother and Danila’s grandmother). At last we arrived, joining a party of about five already in attendance and one member participating via Skype. As always, everything was being recorded. The dacha was a rather modest summer house, consisting of a living room and kitchen on the first floor and an attic bedroom upstairs. It belonged to one of the KrioRus volunteers. Next to the house was a structure resembling a small airplane hangar, with concrete floors and white metal framing. Inside were two giant insulated vats called Anabioz-1 and Anabioz-2 (anabiosis 1 and 2), storing roughly forty patients, as well as frozen “companion species” (Haraway 2003), including over a dozen cats and dogs, a chinchilla named Knopochka (little button), a chickadee, and a goldfinch.16 Less than half of the human clients had undergone full-body cryopreservation, most choosing to preserve only the brain. In full-body preservations the bodies are usually placed in sleeping bags and hung upside down, while brains are stored in special containers.

15. The notion of the technological singularity anticipates the accelerated progress in the area of artificial intelligence that is bound to happen in the near future, resulting in an appearance of “greater-than-human” intelligence and the merging of men and machines. The changes, the argument goes, would be so radical that it is currently impossible to predict exactly what they would be. The term is usually attributed to the science fiction writer Vernor Vinge (1993). 16. Valerija explained that the bottom part of Anabioz-1 was separated from the rest of the container for pet storage. She also showed us another storage container outside, where she said they were planning to move the pets, relocating them then to an offsite facility in Vnukovo, where some patients in neurosuspension (cryopreserved brains) are also currently being stored. I also found out, to my surprise, that the first four KrioRus patients were stored individually by their families, as they were cryonized before the vats were acquired by KrioRus. In this case, KrioRus was responsible only for perfusion, not storage. Valerija was uncertain about the quality of these individual storage sites, noting that one was not kept in a vat at all but in a special locked medical-grade refrigerator in a hospital.

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Figure 1.1. The Dewars, called Anabioz-1 and Anabioz-2. Sergiev Posad, December 2015. Photo by the author.

“They are not really hanging,” said Danila once. “I’d say they are floating, like in a mother’s womb.” He explained the head-down positioning in reference to the possibility of something happening to the container, in which the heads would be the last to thaw. Next to the vats were a cart and a special, attractive-looking coffin with a glass lid, a gift from Japan, that can be insulated with dry ice for transporting the bodies. Usually the coffin is only used to transport bodies from the site of cryopreservation to storage, but Valerija explained that twice recently it had been put to an unexpected use. On both occasions, with the body already perfused, but not yet cooled to −196° Celsius and not yet placed in a vat, relatives suddenly decided they wanted to have an otpevanie, a Russian Orthodox funeral service. “No problem!” said Valerija. “We arranged the [already cryonized] body to look beautiful in this coffin under a glass lid. The priests see them—everything is great, the face looks nice and peaceful, surrounded by dry ice—they do their service, and we take them back,” she explained, chuckling. “Sometimes people are not even religious themselves, but they call us and say, ‘You know, I just remembered, my grandmother was religious, could

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we do an otpevanie just in case?’ We oblige. And why not? Since now we even have the necessary props [rekvizit]!” She smiled, pointing to the coffin. “What can you do? People have their strange beliefs.” In between the coffin and the vats was a large hatch in the ground (which we did not open), said to lead to an experimental facility, where they could also temporarily store frozen bodies either before they were placed in the vats or in case they had a new patient and the vats were full.17 Looking at the hatch and the vats, I felt a piercing chill: the temperature inside the hangar, while not as cold as inside the containers, was frigid, roughly the same as outside—about 0° Fahrenheit. One of the vats had a ladder leading to the top, used to replenish liquid nitrogen every ten days. I climbed it and tried to peek inside the closed lid covered with ice. But there was not much to see, aside from wisps of my frozen breath floating in the air.18 At the time of the visit, cryonicists had high hopes for a new building in Tver’, and Valerija talked about the current facility in the past tense, as if it were already history. And, indeed, there was an essentially “unfinished,” “deferred,” and “in-transition” quality to the place, as to the bodies themselves—suspended, as they were, between past and future, science and faith, promise and peril. The New Year gathering also served as a business meeting, a roundup of the year’s events and achievements, with brief reports by several members. In what seemed a rather macabre proximity to the hangar with frozen cryopatients a couple of feet away from the front door, we indulged in typical Russian New Year’s fare: oliv’e, the quintessential holiday potato salad, pickled cucumbers, charcuterie and cheese plates, and other staples. We drank champagne and set off fireworks outside in the narrow path between the house and the hangar. Neighbors in the nearby village had shown themselves to be less eventempered about living in close proximity to bodies in the deep freeze. A few years prior, a controversy erupted regarding this issue, with cryonics itself

17. As I was finishing this chapter in July 2017, I received the news that Valerija and Danila had acquired a third container, Anabioz-3, big enough to store an additional eight to twelve full bodies. 18. When a guest asked Valerija about the ice on the lid, she said it had been improperly closed and that she would take it up with Sergei, the caretaker, who lives permanently at the dacha and is responsible for maintenance. “He is going to get it in the neck [poluchit po usham],” she said, although in a calm tone and without much anger.

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coming under attack. Angry villagers—who disparaged the storage facility as “corpse storage” (trupokhranilishche)—wrote irate letters to the police, demanding that it be shut down. According to the Orthodox Christian worldview, they argued, the bodies are nothing more than corpses that have long since been abandoned by their souls; in the popular Orthodox belief, it takes only forty days for the soul to “fly off” (otletet’) from the body. They demanded immediate burial of the bodies stored in the cryonics facility so near their homes, expressing fears that they would soon be invaded by zombies, animated corpses, or the soulless living dead.19 Orthodox villagers are not the only ones opposed to cryonics. Major criticism has also come from within the Russian transhumanist community itself. The most prominent critic, interestingly enough, is the person known to international audiences as the “face” of Russian transhumanism: Dmitry Itskov, a former Russian media tycoon who has recently devoted his life to searching for immortality. While cryonicists have created a prototypical secular body, devoid of a soul and with consciousness confined to brain chemistry, Itskov and his transhumanist circle take a distinctly more transcendental approach. They share with cryonicists the problem of how to overcome the mortal body, but they want to preserve more than the body, something more akin to a soul. Itskov attracted a lot of publicity in the United States for organizing and funding the Global Futures 2045 congress, held in June 2013 in New York City. Among a long list of distinguished participants were scientists from fields like neuroprosthetics and molecular genetics, as well as robotics designers, futurists, and visionaries. But nonscientists also attended and included such diverse personalities as U.S. scholar and Buddhist Robert Thurman, Russian yoga master Swami Vishnudevananda, Tibetan incarnate lama Phakyab Rinpoche, and Lazar Puhalo, a retired hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in America.

The Avatar Project Two weeks after the congress in New York, I sought out Itskov in Moscow. “You are going to write about Russian transhumanists?” he asked, in disbelief that someone would come from the United States—in his view, the Mecca of transhumanism—to study the phenomenon in Russia. Itskov’s 19. Interview by the author, Moscow, July 2013; see also Karpov 2013.

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secluded office was unreachable by public transportation, so he picked me up in his white BMW, with a private driver, at a metro stop about fifteen minutes away. When we stepped out into the courtyard of the dilapidated Moscow building where he is headquartered, Itskov elaborated on his surprise. “Well, things are very sad in this area here,” he said. “Most adepts are just too materialist to care about anything beyond preserving their biological bodies. Perhaps it’s a legacy of the Soviet period. This is what I’m trying to change.” We rode an old elevator upstairs, passing through a series of steel doors to arrive at his loftlike office with white brick walls and exposed piping, a strikingly contemporary mix of industrial design and Zen-like decor. The office had a railroad layout, with two female employees working in the first two open-plan rooms. A thick glass door separated Itskov’s office at the back. His desk sported a photograph of himself with the Dalai Lama, who, as has been widely reported, recently approved of Itskov’s quest to transfer consciousness into artificial bodies (Itskov 2012). Itskov is the founder of Immortality, a corporate joint venture that has set itself the goal of creating an artificial body. In 2011 Itskov partnered with Timour Shchoukine, a cognitive neuropsychologist and specialist in biofeedback, to launch Rossiia 2045 (Russia 2045), a sociopolitical movement designed to promote ideas of radical life extension as well as to lobby the Russian government to adopt the project of building artificial bodies as a unifying “national idea.” The year 2045 is the date by which the movement’s main endeavor, the Avatar Project proper, is to be completed. The idea is to transfer the human brain and mind into a series of progressively changing and improving robotic bodies, first melding man and machine but eventually eliminating the very need for a physical body. The first stage, to be completed by 2020, aims to create Body A, a robotic body controlled through a braincomputer interface, similar to the avatar featured in James Cameron’s popular film of that name. Itskov believes the work leading to Body A is already underway, citing research on brain implants that give disabled people control of robotic limbs or make it possible to spell words and move the cursor on the computer solely by means of thoughts (Segal 2013). The second stage, Body B, to be completed by 2025, culminates in the creation of an artificial body into which a human brain is transplanted at the end of life. Body C (or Rebrain) creates an artificial brain into which consciousness is transferred at the end of life. Body C is scheduled for 2035. The final stage, Body D, slated for completion by 2045, intriguingly suggests dispensing with the physical

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Figure 1.2. Four bodies of the Avatar Project. Courtesy of Russia 2045 Initiative.

body altogether in favor of a so-called hologram body, a body that is entirely nonphysical and nontangible. Itskov and Shchoukine’s project received extensive media attention, including mainstream publications in Russia and abroad. In a New York Times article, appearing perhaps appropriately in the business section, reporter David Segal described what makes the project stand out: Most researchers do not aspire to upload our minds to cyborgs; even in this crowd, the concept is a little out there. Academics seem to regard Mr. Itskov as sincere and well-intentioned, and if he wants to play global cheerleader for fields that generally toil in obscurity, fine. Ask participants in the 2045 conference if Mr. Itskov’s dreams could ultimately be realized and you’ll hear everything from lukewarm versions of “maybe” to flat-out enthusiasm. (2013) More than a few, as Segal notes, believe that, at a minimum, “interest in building Itskovian avatars will give birth to and propel legions of start-ups. Some of these far-flung projects have caught the eyes of angel investors, and one day these enterprises may do for the brain and androids what Silicon Valley

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did for the Internet and computers” (2013). Nonetheless, it is not money that Itskov is after. As reported in the article, he has already spent $3 million of his personal funds just for the congress. “I had a midlife crisis at twenty-five,” said Itskov as we settled into his office. He was thirty-two when we spoke. I was head of a big media business. I had made a lot of money. I could either continue working, grow my business even more, make even more money. Or I could sell my company and do something else. I was so young, but I kept thinking about death, about getting old. I saw my aging body covered with wrinkles and imagined myself at the end of life: the whole of life gone, and I hadn’t learned a thing. I tried working less, but then I didn’t know what to do with my free time. I thought of becoming a government employee or a politician to be of service to the people. But I realized that you can’t change society by changing rules. I pursued the spiritual path, practicing meditation and yoga. I knew of and sympathized somewhat with transhumanist ideas of prolonging the life of the biological body— but their ideas always seemed one-dimensional to me. Then I met some people who told me about practices of consciousness transfer in Buddhist and Vedic traditions. I learned that it’s possible to exit one’s biological body. I decided I didn’t want to devote my life to managing this body. If people become physically immortal without developing consciousness, then anything is permitted. I wanted to devote my life to something that would push people to develop spiritually. That’s why I thought about consciousness transfer. If we can manage such a transfer, it will be such a shock for most people. They will understand that they are more than just a biological body. Often missed in media coverage of the Avatar Project is that the creation of cyborgs is not the goal in itself for Itskov, and transcendence of the body is more than just “cheating death.” The idea is not to get a commercial project going that will “propel legions of start-ups,” as Segal would have it. Instead, Avatar is a conscious attempt to bring about spiritual transformation (one might even say salvation) for oneself and others using technical means—an idea that resurfaces with impressive regularity in Russian immortalist communities, past and present. Although the influence of the American futurist Ray Kurzweil is undeniable—the date 2045 comes from his book The Singularity Is Near (2006, 136), as quoted above by one of the cryonicists—several important contingencies distinguish the Russian movement as fundamentally different from anything

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envisioned by Kurzweil.20 One of them is Itskov’s own personality and spiritual beliefs, and another is his collaboration with the Russia 2045 cofounder, neuropsychologist Timour Shchoukine, who played a key role in the enterprise as a science and technology coordinator. A specialist in biofeedback, especially fascinated by the work of the brain in phenomena like lucid dreaming, Shchoukine was contacted in 2010 by a community of Russian practitioners of a philosophical school of Hinduism called Advaita Vedanta, living in an ashram (or spiritual community) in the city of Nizhnii Novgorod, about 250 miles from Moscow. They wanted to hire him to build biofeedback devices to help enhance their meditative practices. At the ashram Shchoukine learned that among the devotees who regularly visited the ashram but did not live there was Itskov. The two got in touch and met. Itskov first related to Shchoukine that he was “interested in cyborgs” and only later specified that he wanted to use cutting-edge technology to achieve a certain kind of immortality. “First, I was not very clear what Itskov was talking about,” Shchoukine reminisced. The idea of the cyborg, the way he was talking about it, was not very coherent. I even first replied quite cynically that it was nonsense, because it sounded like he wanted to buy a bunch of artificial organs and stick them together to make a completely prosthetic cyborg. “Why?” I asked Dima [Itskov]. “I want immortality,” he replied. But why? I wondered. It was only after a while, after I talked to the guru at the ashram, Swami Vishnudevananda, that I realized Dima was a devoted disciple and wanted to help the swami realize his idea of immortality through science.21 At this point the idea started to seem interesting, and it did not take Shchoukine long to enlist an impressive array of scientists in support of the project who later became the movement’s card-carrying experts.22 As Shchoukine recounted the story to me, he began with “what he knew” about creating a robot controlled through interfaces—“a difficult but not an impossible idea.” 20. In 2012 Kurzweil’s credibility was boosted when he was hired as Google’s director of engineering (Taylor 2012). 21. Timour Shchoukine, interview by the author, Moscow, March 2015. Swami Vishnudevananda Giri (born 1967) is a Russian yoga master named after the famous Indian yoga teacher and peace activist (1927–93). 22. He also produced a number of extensive video interviews with them to be put online to boost the project’s legitimacy. Expert interviews can be found on the Russia 2045 website, http://2045.com/experts/.

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This was Body A. Next he got in touch with Aleksandr Kaplan, a professor in the department of biology at the prestigious Moscow State University, where he headed the division of neurophysiology and neurointerfaces. Kaplan had graduated from the same department as the Soviet scientists Vladimir Demikhov (1916–98) and Sergei Briukhonenko (1890–1960), known for the radical experiments they conducted based on isolating the heads of dogs.23 Drawing on their ideas, Kaplan suggested to Shchoukine that the head and brain could be isolated and transplanted into a different body. That would be Body B.24 “Basically, Body B is ‘a brain in the vat’ [mozgi v banke],” Shchoukine explained. He then encountered another scientist who also became a key participant in 2045. This was Vitalii Dunin-Barkovskii, a former director of the Neurocybernetics Institute in the city of Rostov-on-Don, a prominent specialist in digital brain modeling.25 They developed the idea of Body C or Rebrain, which Shchoukine referred to as a “substrate-independent” brain. The only thing that remained unclear was the hologram body, Body D. “What was Body D? I could never get it out of him [Itskov],” Shchoukine said. “I offered him dozens of real-life possibilities, but he always said that was not it.” Shchoukine continued speaking in rapid-fire sentences, as he often did, adding that these were just coming off the top of his head. A laser projector, for example. I told him about some research on ball lightning [sharovaia molniia]. Maybe some steady plasma formation with a complex structure of the plasmid. There is an Institute of High Energy Physics, where they might be working on something like this, they are trying to record [zafiksirovat’] the ball lightning.26 I am guessing that maybe one can create something like a memory structure inside. Not electronics and not photonics, as we already have those, but something like “plasmonics,” into which we can record [information]. In this case, we would have a steady 23. Briukhonenko, a medical doctor, built a device to keep severed dog heads alive in a laboratory. For more on the experiments and their reception in Russia and abroad, as well as their representation in contemporary literature, see Krementsov 2013, 39–65. Vladimir Demikhov, a pioneer in transplantology, transplanted dog’s hearts but is perhaps best known for grafting second heads on dogs. 24. See an interview with Kaplan by Russia 2045 at http://2045.ru/expert/11.html. 25. See an interview with Dunin-Barkovskii by Russia 2045 at http://2045.ru/expert/16 .html. 26. He refers to the Institut fiziki vysokikh energii founded in a town near Moscow in 1963. See the institute’s website: http://www.ihep.su/.

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energy formation with no material components, theoretically at least, and if there is enough memory and speed—if there is a kind of plasma computer [plazmennyi komp’iuter] inside—perhaps one could record a mind on it as well. (emphasis added) “But no!” he lamented. “Dima always said that was not it. I later understood that the hologram body was something his Advaita Vedanta guru came up with, but he never explained to us what it was.” Shchoukine described the community he was creating by communicating with scholars and educating the broader publics as an open network of people working on scientific projects that would lead to the appearance of the Avatar bodies. “It was not even immortality that I was interested in advancing, so much as accelerating the arrivals of these three wonderful things [related to the technologies of the three bodies],” he confessed. “Such research would necessarily produce the unexpected and most fascinating side effects.” But Body D remained unclear. Led by his experts Kaplan, Dunin-Barkovskii, and a few others, research projects were well underway. But for Shchoukine it was also important to have a social and philosophical conception of the movement, a set of values and key questions: “I got quite a bit of media attention. It was hard, as I always had to explain that we were not freaks, and that this was a scientific project.” It was tiring, he added, but he did manage to convince quite a few people. Then, at some point, Shchoukine said, Itskov became unhappy with his media appearances and told him to stop. “Probably because I was not using the words ‘immortality’ and ‘hologram body’—and other such terms the meaning of which is unclear to me—often enough,” he sneered. It was not clear whether he was feeling bitter or triumphant. “In the meantime,” he continued, implying that one was the result of the other, “we became the center of attention for all kinds of conspiracists. We were swamped with mail from all kinds of crazy people. Some wanted us to drop everything and switch to their outlandish projects. Some demanded that we immediately return the heads of their parents that they thought were in our possession. That we remove the chip from their own heads. That we stop manipulating the Russian people from Israel. You know, the whole package.” Shchoukine left the movement by the end of 2012 to work on NeuroNet (a project described in detail in chapter 4), which he felt was a better match with his interests and convictions. Despite Shchoukine’s and Itskov’s unmistakably spiritual aspirations, their proposal for creating artificial bodies inspired the same criticism from the Orthodox Church that it had launched earlier against the cryonicists. One

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reason, of course, is that Itskov was seen as propagating the “wrong” religion, a mix of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the New Age—all of them suspect in Orthodox circles. More important, however, was the way the Avatar Project’s images of cyborgs and artificial brains threatened the very foundations of the human, as seen by Orthodox believers. Vsevolod Chaplin, a former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church and an influential public figure, declared in June 2013 that the primary threat facing Russia was “the appearance of human bio-robots [chelovek-biokonstruktor], people who will fight against people created by God” (Novoshchukin 2013). While it might sound like the archpriest was quoting from the sci-fi television series Battlestar Galactica, in Russia the idea of cyborg humans links to more immediate biopolitical fears and social conflicts. Father Vsevolod interpreted these “illegitimate fusions” of human and machine (Haraway 1991a, 176) as a threat from the “West.” They directly undermine Russian moral values, he maintained, which constitute the key national idea. “The West has already accepted samesex marriages,” he went on. Now it justifies incest and euthanasia. And this is only a beginning. Commentators are already calling for the destruction of the institution of the family. It appears they want to keep the right to be born and live only for certain people, like those who choose their own gender, change their genitals once a week, or enhance their brain by connecting it to the computer. Not allowing man to be turned into a bio-robot should become another national idea for Russia. (Novoshchukin 2013) With the Church riding high on the religious revival in Russia, Itskov might be expected to become a target of its traditionalist conservative rhetoric. The real surprise is the criticism that greeted Itskov’s ideas from within the Russian transhumanist community, among advocates of cryonics in particular. One major disagreement between Itskov and cryonicists bears on their fundamental conceptualizations of body and mind, the basis of their divergent projects of immortality. Cryonicists reject the existence of a soul, identifying the brain as the source of consciousness and personhood. Itskov, perhaps influenced by his study of Asian religions, places an equal or possibly greater value on the development of the mind, as distinct from upgrading the purely physical body. Itskov effectively positions himself as an opponent of cryonics in arguing that what gets interrupted at death is not just bodily existence but experience.

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Dmitry Itskov: From the mystical point of view, it is possible that the subtle body . . . [the person’s] soul, might have already separated itself from the frozen body. To revive a frozen body, we need to create a new one and search for ways to get the soul back in. If you need to create a new body anyway, why freeze the old one? Anya Bernstein: So you are not going to get cryonized? DI: Me? Never. Only if they invent a special cryo-chamber that puts terminally ill people into a state of anabiosis, a kind of sleep where the body is not destroyed, so that they can wake up in the future and be cured. But right now people just die, and the people who freeze them don’t know what will happen to consciousness. Where will it fly off to? How do you get it back into the body? They freeze brains, right? So they think that personality is contained in the brain. They say, if you freeze the brain, everything will be preserved. OK. But then you need to build a body for this brain. So why don’t we focus on building this new body first and try to invent the technology of transfer, which we will eventually need anyway? Most cryonicists are not opposed to the idea of living in robotic bodies like Itskov’s Bodies A and B. Although they are in the business of freezing bodies, many cryonicists share with Itskov their nonattachment to their present bodies, their focus being preservation, continuity, and extension of a certain kind of “self.” Yet Itskov rejects what he considers his opponents’ crude materialism, adopting a more distinctly dualist view. His Avatar Project aims not at physical preservation but at the technology of transferring consciousness (sometimes used interchangeably with “soul”).27 Of all Itskovian bodies, it is once again Body D, or the Hologram Body, that provokes the most disapproval from other transhumanists. Criticism from the Orthodox Church hinges on the way artificial bodies secularize and profane the religious body given us by God. Cryonics, perhaps the most radical secularist movement in contemporary Russia, dismisses Itskov’s proposed bodies as not being secular enough. 27. Itskov is unsure just how consciousness would be transferred, suggesting that he intends to use “Buddhist methods.” Indeed, consciousness transfer, or grong ’jug, has a long history in Tibetan Buddhism. It is supposed to allow a dying person to transfer his or her consciousness into a fresh corpse, either human or animal.

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“Body D, a body of light, that is our ultimate goal,” says Itskov. “The father of our space science, Tsiolkovsky, also talked about replacing our biological bodies with ones made of pure energy. He called it ‘radiant mankind’ [luchistoe chelovechestvo].28 So here we have the intersection of Russian Cosmism and spiritual transhumanism with contemporary biotechnologies.” Most Russian transhumanists beg to differ. “Itskov is a crypto-Buddhist, and his ideas are very dangerous,” says Mikhail Batin. We are already entering the era of religious obscurantism [mrakobesie] in Russia, plunging us even further into the Middle Ages. Itskov’s theory is essentially a religious teaching about attaining a “rainbow body.” He’s not interested in life extension. Like Buddhists, he wants to “exit” [this life]. . . . It’s just that he wants to “exit” it into a computer. For a militant atheist, Batin is surprisingly well-versed in non-Western religious concepts, likening the controversial Body D to the “rainbow body” (Tibetan ’ja lus), which appears in Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, particularly in the Dzogchen teaching, and signifies dissolution of the physical body of the adept into light. This dissolution can happen in the miraculous disappearance of the practitioner during meditation, but it is more commonly believed to occur at the time of death.29 While for Buddhists, this is an extremely unlikely but desirable outcome that could only befall the greatest religious masters, for secular transhumanists it is the target of mockery. “Yes, we have heard our share of ridiculous tales from Itskov’s camp,” one transhumanist told me. “There was even one story about a guy who suddenly dissolved into a rainbow, and then everyone else was barely able to gather what remained of him into a paper towel!” My respondent made a circling hand gesture, as if attempting to collect air into a towel, simultaneously shrugging to emphasize the utter ridiculousness of it all.

28. Michael Hagemeister writes that a study of Tsiolkovsky’s philosophy would shed a new light on the Soviet space program, which was “supposed to open the cosmic way to the transfiguration and perfection of humanity, and finally to eternal salvation” (1997, 198). The human body, according to Tsiolkovsky, will be rebuilt to accommodate the conditions of the cosmos, ultimately losing its corporeality and turning into a kind of radiation. 29. According to The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, “The elements of the material body that remain at death depend on the spiritual level of the deceased adept; the very highest leave no physical remnant at all, or in some explanations just hair and nails, and disappear with just a rainbow left behind” (Buswell and Lopez 2013, s.v. “’ja lus”).

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Kinship, Resurrection, and Physiological Collectivism Itskov’s philosophy is a combination of what he called “spiritual” transhumanism, a fascination with contemporary biotechnologies, and Russian Cosmism. Indeed, his project is as beholden to Hindu and Buddhist traditions as it is to the Russian-born philosophy of Cosmism and secular late Russian and early Soviet techno-utopias. To understand the sometimes eclectic positions of contemporary Russian transhumanists, it is necessary to consider at least two kinds of genealogies. One stems from the thought of Nikolai Fedorov, whom we already encountered in the introduction. Another tradition harks back to the early Soviet secular techno-utopianism, one of whose most illustrious representatives, Aleksandr Bogdanov, is considered by many transhumanists to be an important precursor.30 Since the figure of Fedorov will often come up in the book in relation to the contemporary Fedorovian movement—a key Russian immortalist movement friendly to transhumanism but also significantly different in its commitments—a more detailed explanation of his philosophy is in first order. The canonical figure in the origin of the intellectual tradition that later became known as Russian Cosmism was Nikolai Fedorov (1828–1903), an eccentric polymath called the “Socrates of Moscow” who became a wellknown librarian at the Chertkov Library, the main public library in Moscow at the time. Fedorov was legendary for his lifestyle even while he was alive, reportedly leading an extremely ascetic life, giving away his meager salary and owning few possessions, sleeping on a bare trunk with no linen, and covering himself with his worn coat instead of a blanket. He rented a tiny attic room, and this trunk was his only furniture. Fedorov never published anything major during his life: his writings were collected by his two main disciples and published posthumously under the title Filosofiia obshchago dela (The philosophy of the common cause), marked on the cover page “Not for Sale.” The first volume came out in 1906, and the second one in 1913.31

30. Bogdanov is often included with the Russian Cosmism school of thought by both scholars (see Groys 2018) and transhumanists themselves. Contemporary Cosmists, or Fedorovians, however, do not include him. 31. See Kozhevnikov and Peterson 1906, 1913. It is believed Fedorov composed these works around the 1870s to the 1890s. Most of my Fedorov citations come from the first full publication of his works since these prerevolutionary editions: N. F. Fedorov: Sobranie sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh (Collected works in four volumes) (Fedorov 1995a).

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Fedorov’s views have been described as simultaneously Christian, scientific, occult, and even socialist. During his lifetime, his ideas attracted the interest of well-known Russian thinkers such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Vladimir Solov’ev, all of whom admired his ideas—even if they did not, as in the case of Tolstoy, always agree.32 Fedorov’s ultimate goal, which he described as the “сommon cause” (obshchee delo), was to use science and technology to overcome death and resurrect everyone who has already died. Anticipating contemporary transhumanism, Fedorov considered death a form of disease and the circle of birth, disease, and death pointless and spiritually degrading—an obstacle to creating a truly moral world. “Death,” he wrote, “is the result of being at the mercy of the blind force of nature . . ., yet we accept this dependence and submit to it” (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 250). Death can be called real only when all means of restoring life . . . have been tried and have failed. . . . However numerous the deceased may be, they cannot justify an unquestioned acceptance of death because that would amount to abandoning our filial duty. (ibid., 258, emphasis added) This filial duty, as well as kinship more generally, is central to Fedorov’s philosophy. He distinguishes between the condition of “kinship,” or rodstvo, and a condition that is “unbrotherly” (nebratskoe) or “unkin-ly” (nerodstvennoe). Unbrotherliness, according to Fedorov, is the ultimate cause of the “unpeaceful state of the world,” while what is needed to bring about world peace is the “restoration of kinship.” In his view, the resurrection of ancestors is an act of love and compassion on the part of their descendants, but it is above all an act of filial duty. Fedorov’s key idea is that, as children, we owe a “resurrectory debt” (voskresitel’nyi dolg) to our parents. To repay it, and in the process restore human kinship, each generation must become responsible for resurrecting its parents, a process that will ultimately extend to the resurrection of the very first humans. And once death is overcome, there will be no further need for sexual reproduction. Among the alternative modes of reproduction Fedorov mentions is the creation of “the Son from the Father,” invoking the Trinity as an example of nonbiological reproduction, which Fedorov characterizes as an “artistic” (khudozhestvennyi) process. Fedorov considers this superior to 32. As Tolstoy wrote to a friend, Fedorov’s idea of a “common task involving all mankind, with its goal of the resurrection of all people in the flesh,” is “not so crazy as it sounds.” “Don’t worry,” he added, “I don’t share his views, but I understand them so well that I feel myself able to defend these views before any other creeds” (cited in Young 1979, 62).

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Figure 1.3. N. F. Fedorov, Filosofiia obshchago dela (The philosophy of the common cause), cover, 1906.

the “natural” process of birth (ibid., 292). Humanity’s purpose thus becomes acquiring the godlike powers needed to alter life itself. Resurrection, for Fedorov, is decidedly physical and material, perhaps not surprising in the context of Orthodox Christianity. As in all churches recognizing the Nicene Creed, the resurrection of the body is central to Orthodoxy, with the body transformed in a way that allows it to rejoin the immortal soul. Yet, strikingly, Fedorov barely mentions the soul. His focus on

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bodily immortality recalls early Christian doctrine postulating the continuity of bodily identity after resurrection.33 Fedorov envisions the resurrection of ancestors as an expressly physical process, consisting of tracking down, meticulously collecting, and putting back together the smallest of particles that belonged to our dead ancestors. By now these particles are to be found not only on Earth but also scattered in space, where Fedorov hopes humanity will soon be able to travel, both to search for the particles of ancestors and eventually to populate other planets. The early Christian view his ideas most closely resemble bears on the notion of “resurrection as reassemblage,” which held that the resurrected body will consist of a reassemblage of bits or parts (Bynum 1995, 35–38). A crucial difference, of course, is that, for Fedorov, this reassemblage will be executed not by God but by humans using science and technology. Yet Fedorov’s universe is not godless. On the contrary, he sees technological resurrection as part of God’s plan for leading humanity to restore itself to its original, deathless state. Fedorov’s views of resurrection derive from his understanding of death and the body. He sees death as the decomposition and dispersion of particulate matter. And if particles can be dispersed, they can just as well be put back together. Fedorov denies the finality of death and bodily decomposition on the basis of what he considers strictly materialist criteria, decrying so-called commonsense views on these matters as “childish superstitions” and “pseudonaturalism.” In a passage addressed to his imaginary interlocutors, contemporary thinkers upholding scientific materialist views, he writes: When we are talking about immortality of the soul, thinking people become skeptical and require strict proof. But then why, when death is the issue, do 33. How exactly the selfsameness of the body will be achieved upon resurrection was a focus of intense debate by early Christian theologians, especially in the third and fourth centuries. Early theologians also engaged in vigorous debates on related matters, such as whether aborted fetuses, Siamese twins, and people eaten by cannibals will be resurrected and if so in what form. See Bynum 1995 for analysis of how the resurrection of the body figured prominently in Christian eschatology from the third century to the Middle Ages. Fernando Vidal extends Bynum’s work by focusing on postmedieval debates, identifying a gradual disembodiment and a trend toward “disincarnation” in Christianity and in Western notions of the self in general. Continuing from the Middle Ages into the contemporary period, the focus has shifted from notions of the selfsameness of the resurrected body to notions of psychological continuity, then, in Protestantism, to further disembodiment of the self and the marginalization of traditional resurrection doctrines, and finally to neuropsychological scientific and philosophical conceptions of selfhood (Vidal 2002).

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philosophers succumb to childish superstitions? They consider decomposition [gnienie] an attribute that does not allow for further experiments. But we should remind them that decomposition is not a supernatural phenomenon and that particles cannot dissipate anywhere outside finite space. We should remind them of their own words: an organism is a machine, with consciousness related to it as bile is to the liver: reassemble the machine and consciousness will return to it! (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 258) This passage has often provoked critiques of Fedorov as a vulgar materialist, yet upon closer reading, one can see that he composed it as a polemic against the materialists, arguing that the views they themselves hold about death contradict their otherwise naturalist views (ibid., 258). It may seem paradoxical to combine Orthodox Christianity with such arguably secular mechanistic notions of the body, but this odd combination might be precisely what allows Fedorov to be claimed by proponents of diverse and conflicting contemporary agendas. While adhering to stark metaphors of the body-as-machine, he nonetheless is clearly a religious thinker, if an unorthodox one. Fedorov’s writing style is poetic, mystical, and often opaque. “True religion,” for him, is the cult of ancestors, describing it as the “cult of all the fathers as one father inseparable from the Triune God, yet not merged with him” (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 72). He places the cult of the ancestors in an Orthodox Christian framework, taking resurrection to be its central goal. Fedorov disapproves of both deism and pantheism, deism because it separates God from the fathers and pantheism because it merges the fathers with God. Deism and pantheism, he claims, lead to atheism. In one striking move, he turns the notion of atheism on its head, defining it not as disbelief in a higher power but as “the acceptance of a blind force, as well as its veneration and submission to it. Venerating a blind force means deifying it, believing it to be alive” (ibid.). This “blind force” (slepaia sila) is one of the key images in his writing, and it relates to nothing other than nature itself, which he assesses negatively as something in need of active improvements and transformation. At the same time, transforming nature does not contradict his religious convictions. Quite the contrary: “Serving God entails the transformation of a blind, deadly force into a life-giving one through regulation” (ibid., emphasis added). Thus the human transformation of nature is not simply consistent with divine will but is the quintessence of divine will. “Regulation of nature” (reguliatsiia prirody) is another key Fedorovian term, often translated into English as “control of nature,” suggesting parallels with the technocratic Soviet ethos of the conquest of nature. For Fedorov, however, it is

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not that nature is essentially evil but that it is blind. As one scholar of Russian Cosmism, George Young, puts it: “Left unregulated, the blind force of nature drives the universe towards disintegration, drives men and women to abandon their parents in order to turn themselves from children to parents” (1979, 113). Humans are thus part of nature, but at the same time they are above it. Nature doesn’t feel or see or think. Humans do it for nature. Humans are its eyes, its ears, its consciousness. Yet because it is “blind” and “unconscious,” nature is capable of inadvertently inflicting disaster on humans. To “regulate nature” for Fedorov means to improve it in specific ways, transforming it from a blind force into a conscious one, which he sees as a fundamental human task, divinely mandated through evolution. “In us, nature not only begins to become conscious of itself but also to regulate itself,” wrote Fedorov. “In us it will reach such a state that it will no longer destroy, but instead resurrect everything it did destroy when it was yet blind.” Or: “Nature is our temporary enemy but eternal friend,” as Fedorov wrote in a key essay with an eponymous title (Fedorov [1913] 1995c, 239). By “nature” Fedorov means not only the living environment but the whole natural order of being, including outer space34 and human nature. If nature is to become more “human,” it cannot be more human in our current imperfect form—but in the form of a morally and physically uplifted, transformed or transfigured human. The human, for Fedorov, is an unfinished and imperfect being but one that is active in the world and able to conduct itself to the next evolutionary stage. Fedorov did not call himself a Cosmist. The term was retroactively applied by Russian scholars in the 1970s to a diverse group of early twentieth-century philosophers and scientists who were believed to share major themes with him. Key Soviet scientists Tsiolkovsky and Vernadsky were included among Russian Cosmists, along with religious philosophers such as Vladimir Solov’ev and Pavel Florensky.35 Young notes that Fedorov’s appeal both 34. In regards to “regulation” of outer space, Fedorov suggested that Earth be transformed from a self-propelled body into a spaceship (zemnokhod) with the entire humanity as its navigators ([1913] 1995i, 240). He thus anticipated the famous “Spaceship Earth” idea that became a symbol for the burgeoning American environmental movement in the 1960s. Although futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller is most often credited with coining this term (1969), it had been used by others throughout the 1960s (McCray 2013, 23). 35. In Russian popular discourse Tsiolkovsky—the “forefather” of the Russian space program—is often considered a “disciple” of Fedorov. So transformed was Tsiolkovsky by Fedorov’s idea to resurrect the ancestors and populate the universe with resurrected generations, so the story goes, that he devoted his life to the pursuit of spaceflight. The fact that

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fed and benefited from an ethos characteristic of the first decades of the twentieth century that he refers to as “Promethean.” From within the Promethean ethos, philosophy is not understood as mere reflection but as a form of action. The view draws from both Friedrich Nietzsche and Marx on the “death of God,” proclaiming the need for humanity to take its destiny into its own hands.36 Cultural currents contemporary with Cosmism that shared this general ethos included god-building, a movement that attempted to build a new, human-centered religion compatible with Marxism; certain strains of occultism; and a broad worldview of technological utopianism (Young 2012, 177–93).37

Fedorov’s real name was Gagarin—shared with Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, who in 1961 completed an orbit of the Earth for the first time in history—is often cited as a serendipitous and almost mystical sign of Russia’s manifest destiny in space. (Fedorov was an illegitimate son of Prince Gagarin—which is a common Russian surname—and a peasant woman.) For more on Tsiolkovsky and narratives of the mystical roots of the Soviet space program, see chapter 4. Debunking this myth, Hagemeister insists that there are more differences than similarities between Fedorov and Tsiolkovsky. Tsiolkovsky did not advance the idea of resurrecting the dead and perfecting mankind in its entirety. On the contrary, he advocated perfection and immortality only for select humans, as he was an adherent of eugenic betterment of humanity (Hagemeister 2011, 32). Svetlana Semenova and Anastasia Gacheva (1993, 29–31), by contrast, argue that what unites Fedorov and Tsiolkovsky most closely is the idea of emancipation from Earth. As Hagemeister (2011, 30) notes, for both, expansion into space was only a means to their respective goals: resurrecting the dead for Fedorov and the self-perfection of humanity, as well as the achievement of eternal bliss, for Tsiolkovsky. The relation between Fedorov and Tsiolkovsky is contested by scholars, with some insisting that Fedorov influenced Tsiolkovsky (the two did know each other; Tsiolkovsky went to Moscow as a young man to study at the Chertkov Library, where Fedorov was a librarian supervising his studies) and others arguing that Fedorov never spoke to Tsiolkovsky about his ideas. For an expanded list of references on this debate, see Hagemeister 2011, 38n26; Siddiqi 2008, 266–67n24. 36. Russian scholars who are followers of Fedorov do not consider him “Promethean.” In fact, they oppose the prometeizm (Prometheanism) of Bogdanov, the god-builders, and the Bolsheviks—understood as humans striving to replace God—to what they refer to as Fedorov’s teoantropurgiia, in which the world is radically transformed through the joint action of God and humans, with God leading the way (Anastasia Gacheva, personal communication with the author, March 2015). I would agree, but I contend that Fedorov’s ideas, often stripped of religious implications, fed into a precisely Promethean cultural ethos, from the god-builders to Biocosmists to transhumanists. 37. See also Siddiqi 2008 on the relationship between Cosmism and technological utopianism in 1920s Russia.

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Box 1. Russian Cosmism The term “Russian Cosmism” (russkii kosmizm) appeared first in the 1970s as a characterization of a national tradition, whereas the term “cosmic philosophy” dates back to the nineteenth century. It is not clear who first came up with the term: one of the earliest uses is by Renata Gal’tseva in the Soviet Filosofskaia entsiklopedia (Philosophical encyclopedia, 1970). Michael Hagemeister defines Cosmism as “a holistic and anthropocentric view of the universe which presupposes a teleologically determined—and thus meaningful—evolution,” in which humans are destined to become the decisive factor in the perfection of nature, overcoming death and disease, and eventually spreading human reason throughout the universe (1997, 185–86). With the “patriarch” of the Soviet space program Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935), the geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863–1945), and the heliobiologist Aleksandr Chizhevskii (1897–1964) as the main representatives of the “scientific” branch of Russian Cosmism, Fedorov was retroactively declared to be the founder of the tradition. Also retrospectively, a “religious” branch of this tradition has been constructed by scholars, defined as including Russian religious philosophers, such as Pavel Florensky (1882–1937), Vladimir Solov’ev (1853–1900), Sergii Bulgakov (1871–1944), and Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948), into the Cosmist pantheon. While there is some debate over whether Russian Cosmism can be considered a coherent philosophical school (Gavriushin 1993, a view also shared by Hagemeister), one influential point of view has it that Russian Cosmism is not so much cosmic as it is active-evolutionary (aktivno-evoliutsionnyi), advancing the view of the human as an “unfinished” and “intermediary” being, who should take evolution into his own hands and transform not only the world but his own nature. Influenced by the Bergsonian idea of “creative evolution,” the most prominent systematizer of Cosmist thought, Svetlana Semenova, coined the term “active evolution,” replacing the word “creative” with “active” to express the central Cosmist idea (Bergson [1907] 2007; Semenova and Gacheva 1993, 4). She also uses the term “active-creative evolution” (aktivno-tvorcheskaia evoliutsiia; sometimes abbreviated as ATE).

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Importantly, the Bolshevik revolution in Russia was accompanied by a major scientific revolution, specifically an explosion in experimental biomedical research starting in the late nineteenth century and culminating in the 1910s and 1920s, that dramatically changed people’s “understandings of life and death” (Krementsov 2013, 192). Early Soviet planners looked to remold the individual into the New Soviet Person by remodeling consciousness through social engineering but also by altering biological capacities, as expressed in the early Soviet term “anthropotechnics.” Initially defined as an “applied branch of biology devoted to the improvement of human physical and spiritual qualities,” the idea was to use innovative biology and experimental medicine to better the human condition by enabling control of basic life processes.38 Russia’s early successes in areas such as tissue and organ transplantation, immunization, blood transfusions, hormone therapies, cell cultivation, and heredity generated “a euphoric vision” in which, through science, humanity would “control life, death, and disease” (Krementsov 2013, 25). That Fedorov’s ideas gained so much traction in the 1920s had as much to with this biomedical revolution as with the general ethos of the time. If Fedorov, according to many of my interlocutors, was “the first transhumanist,” another key figure, from whom Russian transhumanists like to draw their genealogies, comes from the milieu of the early twentieth-century Soviet techno-utopianism. Steeped in the Promethean spirit of the contemporary scientific revolution, this circle is often cited as another important inspiration by both militantly atheist cryonicists and more spiritually inclined adherents, such as Itskov and his team. The pivotal figure here is Aleksandr Bogdanov (1873–1928), whose diverse legacy further blurs the lines between “the religious” and “the secular,” allowing him to be claimed by both movements discussed in this chapter. What is more, as we will see, Bogdanov has recently gone global, claimed not only by Russian technoprogressives but also—albeit misguidedly—by the Silicon Valley–style transhumanist libertarians. Like Fedorov, Bogdanov (born Malinowskii) was a rare polymath: philosopher, physician, scientist, revolutionary, and well-known writer of science 38. The term “anthropotechnics,” which first appeared in 1926 in Bol’shaia sovetskaia entsiklopediia (The great Soviet encyclopedia) (Shmidt 1926, 130–31), was used by Fedorov’s follower Valerian Murav’ev (Murav’ev [1934] 1993, 203). See also Peter Sloterdijk’s (2014) recent attempt to apply the early Soviet term more globally in the sense of a general reshaping of human possibilities.

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fiction. He first outlined his ideas in a popular science fiction novel, Krasnaia zvezda (Red star, 1908), which tells the story of a Russian scientist and revolutionary who travels to Mars with a Martian to visit the ideal communist society built on the red planet. In this completely egalitarian society, not only have inequalities in private property ownership been overcome but so also have bodily inequalities. Sexual differences are blurred: a Martian who is first thought to be a man turns out to be a woman, and a complicated love story ensues. What is more, citizens of Mars have erased the boundaries between individual bodies and attained a kind of universal kinship though regular blood exchanges for the purpose of rejuvenating each other and extending their life spans (Bogdanov 1908). The novel became extremely popular and was reprinted at least six times between 1917 and 1925. It was also translated into several languages in the Soviet Union and adapted as a stage play (Krementsov 2011, 2). As an early Bolshevik, Bogdanov was rivaled only by Lenin in importance and later became his primary philosophical opponent. Lenin’s major philosophical work, Materializm i empiriokrititsizm (Materialism and empiriocriticism, 1909), was devoted to a critique of Bogdanov’s views, as expressed in his earlier book Empiriomonizm (Empiriomonism, 1904–6). Lenin also disapproved of Bogdanov’s active support for a quasi-religion emerging at the time called bogostroitel’stvo (god-building), a secular movement calling on people to worship not God but humanity’s own potential. Bogdanov was eventually expelled from the Bolshevik Party and did not actively participate in the 1917 revolution, although he did support it overall. Out of politics, Bogdanov returned after the revolution to his scientific pursuits (he had been a student in the natural sciences and eventually graduated as a medical doctor), investigating whether his earlier visionary ideas could be put into practice. He became fascinated by contemporary research in rejuvenation and life extension and started experimenting with blood transfusions precisely as he had laid out in his science fiction. He formulated a theory of the “viability of organisms” to replace the notion of “rejuvenation,” as the latter implied more benefit for old people than for the young. In line with the Martian utopian society he portrayed in Red Star, where both young and old participate in what he called “mutual” (vzaimnye) blood exchanges, he suggested ways in which the young and the old can be of benefit to each other. He theorized, for example, that since “in the young, cancer occurs only in extremely rare instances . . . hence, one has serious reasons to think that young blood could

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be the best means in the struggle against cancer.”39 Tuberculosis, on the other hand, “occurred mostly among the young,” and thus immunity could perhaps be transferred from the old to the young through blood exchanges (cited in Krementsov 2011, 86). By 1925, he had won state funding to establish a major research institute in Moscow, the Institute for Blood Transfusion, which was devoted entirely to research on and the practice of blood transfusions. Shortly after he reported that they had completed about ten blood exchanges, and seven of them were between a young and an old individual. Five of them, he reported, were mutually beneficial (ibid., 70). Perhaps most striking about Bogdanov’s fascination with blood transfusions is the idea of “physiological collectivism.” As expressed in his earlier science fiction, Bogdanov felt that in any truly egalitarian society, more than property and privileges would be shared; so would the very corporeal properties of persons. Thus, life extension and rejuvenation was only one goal motivating his science. The creation of a kind of universal kinship through exchange of what he considered a key bodily substance—blood—was another. In his 1922 lecture, “O fiziologicheskom kollektivizme” (On physiological collectivism), he argues, The task of this operation is to overcome any quantitative or qualitative insufficiency in a patient’s blood by means of another person. The deep and uniquely revolutionary meaning of the method is that it breaks the boundaries of physiological uniqueness and supports one organism through the life-giving elements of another in the fight against destructive nature [stikhiinost’] and in close biophysical cooperation. (Bogdanov [1922] 2003) The essay posits a new conception of the self, envisioning new possibilities in the relationship between self and other, beyond what is available to autonomous bounded subjects. The idea is not unlike the semipermeable selves “able to engage with others” proposed more than half a century later by Donna Haraway (1991b, 225) in her critique of immune system discourse. Similarly, Bogdanov anticipates the notion of physiological collectivism running up against deep-rooted cultural taboos that prohibit the mingling of self and other. In “our individualist era,” he notes in conclusion, people

39. Krementsov (2011, 12) mentions Bogdanov’s suggestion that blood exchanges could be the ultimate cure for the “Soviet exhaustion” that had started to plague the aging party elite.

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are generally disgusted by any violation of the boundaries of the physiological personality [lichnost’] and mixing with the elements of another life. They fear this imaginary loss of individuality, and this is how an individualist perceives a creative expansion of his personality. The kind of collectivism of feeling and sociality of the spirit [natura] that we need are still very rarely encountered. But they do exist, and with the progress of culture their numbers are growing. A new atmosphere, without which the very idea of physiological collectivism of life would have been unthinkable, is currently being created. (Bogdanov [1922] 2003) Bogdanov’s practice of physiological collectivism was somewhat limited by contemporary theories of aging with which he was familiar, linking it to the weakening of the sex glands. Thus, Bogdanov did not perform intersex blood exchanges between males and females, as it was believed that the sexual characteristics in both participants would be lessened—a step that was too radical to undertake, at least at the time. In Red Star, however, this is exactly what happened, resulting in both sexes being slightly androgynous (Krementsov 2011, 85–86). After performing eleven blood exchanges, in 1928 Bogdanov died following an unsuccessful attempt to share his own blood with that of a twenty-oneyear-old student suffering from an inactive form of tuberculosis. The exchange was intended to illustrate his theory that the young could also benefit from mutual transfusions, as in the case of tuberculosis. Bogdanov believed he had immunity and wished to transfer it to the young man. Instead, he developed what doctors refer to as hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells) and died of renal and liver failure two weeks after the exchange. The student also had some hemolytic reaction and nearly died as well, but doctors managed to save him (ibid., 100, see also Huestis 2007, 339). If Fedorov was Russia’s—and perhaps the world’s—“first transhumanist,” as my interlocutors like to say, “Bogdanov was the first biohacker.” While Bogdanov was not a follower of Fedorov, he shared with Fedorov not only a belief in technological utopianism but also the idea of life extension as essentially a “common cause.” Both believed in the importance of kinship in achieving the ideal state of society: Fedorov through the universal resurrection of ancestors, and Bogdanov through the linking together of bodies via shared somatic substances. Importantly, their views on human malleability anticipated the Sovietperiod construction of the human as an essentially plastic being by facilitating a framing of the body in secular mechanistic terms—a view shared by some contemporary transhumanists. At the same time, other transhumanists

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emphasize Fedorov’s spiritual dimension, especially his notion that technological progress is doomed in the absence of spiritual development.

Producing the Post-Soviet Human “The body is a vehicle, a car,” said Igor’ Trapeznikov, a transhumanist and staunch supporter of cryonics, when I met him in Moscow not long after meeting Itskov. Trapeznikov was wearing tiny body cameras, so everything I recorded, he was recording as well. Igor’ Trapeznikov: You need to take care of it. If you go into a coma, the car stops. The tow truck comes to pick you up and—if you don’t have relatives who are into cryonics—it takes you to the junkyard. Anya Bernstein: If a body is a car, what is personality? IT: The driver. For the majority of people, personality is the drunk driver, an idiot driver. Driver-child, driver–fantasy maker. Look at how some people ruin their body-car by the time they are fifty or sixty. Others, in contrast, take care of the car and live longer. Yogis, for example. They are experts in taking care of the car and even the driver. They have developed a certain kind of mental hygiene. But yogis have different goals than we do. Their goal is nirvana. Ours is unlimited life duration. The body-as-machine metaphor, of course, is old and multivalent, running through the course of Western history from certain strains of early Greek philosophy to the Enlightenment to Soviet and Italian futurism to current global biomedical discourses. In this framework, spiritual practices such as yoga are only legitimately of interest if understood under the secularized rubric of self-mastery, of “mental hygiene.” Unlike Itskov, who clearly identifies with a yogi and considers himself a spiritual seeker, Trapeznikov seems to endorse a mainstream biomedical framework, pushing it to its logical extreme. In his rendering, the “yogi” is not an “obscurantist” (as Itskov, for example, would be portrayed by his detractors) but a rational, secular technologist of the body. The machine-body metaphor opens the way for the possibility of immortality, since, to quote the cultural theorist Boris Groys (2013), to become immortal, one first has to become a machine. That secularist transhumanists like Trapeznikov have adopted the body-asmachine metaphor is perhaps unsurprising, given the general tendency (as discussed in the introduction) of transhumanism toward “ultra-Enlightenment”

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(Fuller and Lipinska 2015). Perhaps more striking are the ideas of personhood expressed by transhumanists who are not opposed to religion and spirituality but, instead, are keen to reconcile mystical insights with cutting-edge futurist science. A good example came up during my conversation with Itskov, as I prodded him to clarify the overlapping terms he was using: “soul,” “consciousness,” “subtle body,” “self.” He answered in his characteristic mix of occult, scientific, and quasi-scientific terms: These words are not quite synonyms for me. There is “consciousness,” which is, in my opinion, an individual phenomenon. And there is also “soul,” which is a database of many reincarnations—although not all religions believe in reincarnation. So in my opinion, the “database” of the soul adds experience to the “central” database, which releases a smaller subdatabase, and a new reincarnation begins. And if the soul does not separate after freezing the body—and I asked the spiritual masters, they said there is a possibility that it won’t—then we would need to create a bio-clone or some kind of artificial body, like the one we propose in the Avatar Project, and look for a way to get the soul inside. Given his belief in the immaterial nature of consciousness and soul,40 then, building an artificial body seems to Itskov both more promising and more urgent than cryonic preservation. Although it is possible to conceive his aim as resolving the dilemma of dualism by ultimately forgoing the biological body in favor of an immaterial virtual body, Itskov remains an ontological dualist in his views on the mind-body connection. By contrast, other Russian transhumanists appear to be materialists—whether mystical materialists like Fedorov and the Cosmists or cryonicists who reject mind-body dualism by treating consciousness as an epiphenomenon of the brain. That is why, for them, freezing the brain holds the most logical appeal. Yet other transhumanists—in violation of their own beliefs—view the rejection of mind-body dualism as a radical intellectual move that, however admirable, will ultimately fail to win supporters in Russia. Anton Avdeev, a friend of the cryonicists at KrioRus and an owner of the only private mainstream funeral business in Russia that, at the time of our meeting in 2015, considered 40. Farman finds similar conceptions of self as “information” among U.S. transhumanists. He argues that this “informatic self ” might be a nondualistic way to overcome the ontological mind-body gap without falling into reductive materialism (2012a, 422–60). I address the notion of information in relation to embodiment in Bernstein, n.d.b.

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offering cryopreservation as an option, summarized the situation like this: “Cryonicists lack metaphysics. They lack the idea of a released soul. That is why it would be extremely difficult for them to conquer the minds of the majority in Russia. . . . They need a mystical component. They need to develop ritual.” In reference to the conflict described earlier, when villagers protested the location of a cryonics facility in their area out of fear that cryopatients could turn into soulless zombies, Avdeev remarked, a bit tongue-incheek, “Transhumanists need to try to make friends with the villagers. Show them that you can be useful! For example, if one of their horses breaks a leg, can you print a new one on your fancy 3D printer? Then maybe villagers will let you use their horse carts to transport your storage containers with frozen bodies.” Otherwise, he insisted, the movement will fail to find support in what he sees as a “deeply religious country.” Just how “religious” contemporary Russia really is has recently become the subject of heated debate. Since the fall of the USSR, religion has assumed an increasingly public role, most importantly in the form of the Russian Orthodox Church, provoking secularists to voice concerns about klerikalizatsiia, or the merging of church and state. Indeed, so-called blasphemy trials; the introduction into schools of religious education classes; the influence of the clergy in bioethical matters like abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, and homosexuality; a recent law protecting “the feelings of religious believers”; and frequent statements by state leaders declaring that Russian Orthodoxy is (or should be) the unifying national idea for Russia are all viewed with alarm by international observers and secular Russian liberals.41 Political scientists, despite the widespread concern, have tended to peg religion as a secondary issue for the Kremlin, except in areas where the interests of church and state converge, including critiques of liberalism and Westernization as well as issues regarding religious pluralism, education, and security (Anderson 2007; see also Knox 2003; Papkova 2011). Underlying the bioethical positions of the Russian Orthodox Church, in other words, is the religious critique of Western liberalism, with its assumption of a rights-based autonomous individual, and, for transhumanists, this critique has made the church into a force to be reckoned with. 41. In the key contemporary church document titled The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, which contains the church’s positions on a number of social issues, homosexuality is included under “Bioethics” and not under “Family” (see Russian Orthodox Church 2000).

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In January 2014, Valerija Pride and some fellow cryonicists agreed to debate representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church.42 Their opponents were led by Father Vitalii (Utkin), a regional spokesman for the church and head of Church-Society Relations in Ivanovo-Voznesenskii diocese. Father Vitalii presented a statement titled “The Challenge of Transhumanism: Endless Progress into the Depths of the Unhumanning [Raschelovechevanie] of Humanity.”43 “According to transhumanists,” he argued, “humanity has reached the stage where, in deference to science and technological progress, it is ready to reject itself, to reject humanness itself as a form of existence.” He went on to portray Christianity as offering a notion of the human that is incompatible with the one put forth by transhumanism: A person is neither an assemblage of genes, nor a collection of electric impulses in the brain. A human is an eternal personality [lichnost’], created in God’s image and likeness. But a human consists not only of the soul, but also of the body. The body is very important. The souls of all people will be reunited with their own bodies after a universal resurrection from the dead. It is in these transformed bodies that they will reside in eternity. Along with a disclaimer attesting to his openness to modern medicine— Father Vitalii shared with the audience his recent expensive ordeal of having his teeth replaced—he posed a question: “Where is the border between improving human health and transforming into the posthuman?” “There is no border,” replied Valerija. “There is no difference. When we get artificial limbs, we are still human.” She went on, “If we get a kidney transplant, we are still human. If we get an artificial heart, we are still human. I have heard that Christians think the soul is in the heart, but will you reject an artificial heart? Even if we get an entirely artificial body, then we will still be human. 42. Not all in the Russian Orthodox faction at this debate were official representatives of the church. The initiator of the debate was Dmitry Enteo, a well-known radical Orthodox activist. A videotape of the debate is available (see Transhumanism against God, 2014 YouTube Video). 43. I translate raschelovechevanie as “unhumanning” and not as “dehumanization,” as raschelovechevanie in Russian has particular connotations, which dehumanization does not. Raschelovechevanie implies a threat that one might stop being human, sometimes in the very literal sense—such as not having the wholeness mentioned above, whether in life or after death. Raschelovechevanie is the opposite of vochelovechevanie (literally, becoming-humanning), the term Russian religious philosophy sometimes uses to signify the incarnation of Christ. This distinction is key for understanding the contemporary Fedorovian movement—the subject of the next chapter.

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What remains? Just the brain.” It is worth noting at this point that despite transhumanism’s perception by many as “fringe” science, and discounting controversial practices such as cryonics, transhumanist views of personhood are mostly in line with the ideas of mainstream cognitive neuroscience. In such a brain-centered conception of personhood, writes historian of science Fernando Vidal, “if the brain of person A is transplanted into the body of person B, then A undergoes a body transplant, rather than B a brain transplant.”44 Vidal points out that although such a surgery is still not feasible,45 some individuals are already looking to protect themselves. In an older version of the Swisstransplant cards carried by potential organ donors in Switzerland, the brain and reproductive organs were explicitly excluded. The exclusion preserved personal identity for both the donors and those persons whose identity would have been partly defined by their descendance from them (Vidal 2002, 938). Transhumanism, and cryonics in particular, can be viewed as a radical epistemological extension of the dominant neuroscientific view of personhood, in that cryonicists preserve the brain as the locus of the person. Father Vitalii disagreed. Even were science to figure out how to animate cryonized bodies and repair their original ailments, he asserted, the reanimated person would not be the same person as the one who was frozen. That original person, he said, died and remains dead. Strikingly, he invoked Judaic mythology: the reanimated person would be nothing but a Golem, a mud doll revived by magical means. “Who do you want to reanimate?!” screamed a woman from the audience at Valerija. “You want a monster?” “Why a monster?” Valerija smiled. “My mom!” Father Vitalii was also at pains to stress the importance of immortality not being realized through human effort, “as Fedorov and the Cosmists wanted.” 44. For the critique of the notion of “personhood-as-brainhood,” see Rose and Abi-Rached 2013, 220. 45. In March 2015, a story featuring the claims of Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero that a full-body transplant is two years away exploded in the news (Canavero had published a paper providing a detailed outline of this surgery two years prior to the news story). A Russian programmer, Valerii Spiridonov, suffering from terminal muscle-wasting disease, volunteered to be the first recipient of such a transplant (Goldschmidt 2015). Some of my transhumanist interlocutors referred to Spiridonov’s desire to risk this controversial surgery as an “act of sacrifice.” KrioRus offered him a free cryopreservation in case the surgery “does not work.” Other Russian transhumanists, however, remain skeptical of Canavero’s claims.

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He condemned the influence of Russian Cosmism on contemporary transhumanism, calling it “Russia’s own brand of secular immortalism,” dangerous and Western oriented. From the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, Fedorov’s views are nothing but heretical, since they advocate active human involvement in resurrection. If for some transhumanists Fedorov is the only “Christian” philosopher they know, from the official Orthodox standpoint, he is more “secular” than “religious,” just as Russian Cosmism is rather “Western” as opposed to truly “Russian.” The Fedorov movement, according to this view, is a dangerous bridge in that it promotes, in a religious disguise, values that the Church considers secular. In a statement published shortly after the debate on an Orthodox online portal, Father Vitalii called transhumanism an alarming “globalist” trend that has taken off very well in Russia thanks to the persisting legacy of Soviet atheism. “It is via the ideas of ‘Russian Cosmism’ that the older generation of our scientists are attempting to find their place among the globalist trendsetters” (Utkin 2014). Yet, as I hope to have demonstrated in this chapter, contemporary Russian transhumanism has as many roots in socialism and revolution, the site of “the human” as the supremely plastic project, as it does in Russian religious philosophy.

Beyond the Sovereign Self The ethnographic case studies for this chapter draw from conflicting camps in the contemporary Russian transhumanist movement—the cryonics community and the Russia 2045 movement founded by Dmitry Itskov—and from the conflict between these two camps and the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite disagreements over how to conceptualize personhood, expressed in their divergent ontologies of body and mind, Russian transhumanists share the fundamental assumption that to be human is to be malleable and to be an active agent in self-evolution. This view contrasts starkly with the Russian Orthodox vision, in which agency is ultimately divine rather than human and which insists on the fixity of the physical body in anticipation of eventual resurrection and eternal life. Moreover, the views shared by conflicting camps within transhumanism have much in common with Russian Cosmism and various secular strains in early Soviet techno-utopianisms. Father Vitalii’s identification of affinities between Russian Cosmism and “globalist ideology” notwithstanding, nothing could be further from contemporary global neoliberalism than the imaginary of Russian Cosmism, with its roots in “unorthodox” Orthodox Christianity. Just as Fedorov and subsequent

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techno-utopian revolutionaries championed the “common cause” of immortality, contemporary transhumanists evince a range of subjectivities grounded in historical changes and moral imaginaries. Fedorov envisioned the resurrection of ancestors as an ultimate act of love and compassion, and Bogdanov sought life extension for all through mutual blood transfusions, literally eliminating the boundaries between self and other. These seekers of “scientific” immortality viewed its achievement as a fundamentally collective—some would even say totalitarian—endeavor. In Fedorov’s utopia, there was no exclusion from resurrection, doing away with an individual right to remain dead (Hagemeister 1997, 202). How does this Fedorovian and Bogdanov’s sensibility play out in postsocialist Russia, where the idea of the collective seems to have given way to the erosion of the Soviet welfare state, the shrinking of social institutions, and the shifting of obligations to individuals under the guise of personal sovereignty? As is often pointed out, neoliberal technologies of government have reorganized the powers of the state, placing “increasing emphasis on the responsibility of individuals to manage their own affairs, to secure their own security with a prudential eye on the future” (Rose 2007, 4)—and to take “adequate care of one’s own genetic capital” (Braidotti 2013, 116). Postsocialist Russia underwent the transition from welfare state to its own variety of (authoritarian and oligarchic) neoliberalism in accelerated fashion during the 1990s freemarket reforms and economic shock therapy, and some transhumanist views give the impression of being uniquely positioned to crystallize the resulting sensibility. Indeed, in their search for immortality, transhumanists appear committed to being responsible consumers of medical practices as well as of scientific discoveries and technologies. In what might seem to be libertarian fashion, some Russian transhumanists frequently oppose bioethics committees, institutional review boards, and what they see as the “slow” and “conservative” institutions and practices of mainstream science. Instead, they advocate so-called seasteading, the creation of permanent dwellings at sea outside the control of governments, where they plan to conduct experiments they believe will hasten the achievement of human immortality by building knowledge in such areas as human cloning and stem cell research. Considering these ideas, far from Bogdanov’s vision of porous selfhood in the context of “physiological collectivism,” transhumanists appear to champion an investor’s conception of the self, whereby the person comes to be made up of a flexible collection of assets: a person is proprietor of his or her self as a portfolio (Martin 2000, 582).

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The concept of seasteading was developed by the American libertarian and tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel. In 2016 and early 2017, Thiel received a drubbing in the press for expressing interest in participating in a controversial clinical trial proposing to inject older people with young people’s plasma. After a 2014 study discovered that injections of blood from younger mice arguably “rejuvenated” older mice, improving their memory and coordination (Villeda et al. 2014), a Californian start-up called Ambrosia launched a human clinical trial. The trial raised ethical concerns, beginning with the $8,000 it cost to participate. Articles bearing titles like “Peter Thiel Wants to Inject Himself with Young People’s Blood” appeared in the media, stirring dystopic fears about older rich people being after poor young people’s blood. The episode of the popular TV show Silicon Valley titled “Blood Boy” that aired in May 2017 included a tech mogul who hires a young “transfusion associate” to supply him with “young” blood. The fears were not completely unfounded, as blood for the real-life trial was purchased from blood blanks, donated by people under twenty-five who were unaware that their blood might be used in wellheeled healthy adult consumers rather than for traditional medical purposes. Anyone over thirty-five was eligible to pay the fee and participate in the trial (Kosoff 2016; Farr 2017). It is striking that Bogdanov was mentioned in many critical articles as a predecessor to such transfusions, even while the notion of mutuality at the core of his philosophy and practice, claiming that both the young and the old should benefit from blood transfusions, was completely erased. Instead, Bogdanov—referred to by one commentator as “a particularly Thielian figure”—was unfairly portrayed as the originator of an exploitative, unethical, and dubious quasi-medical practice illustrative of Silicon Valley’s vampiric capitalism, which now wants to consume not only labor but also “the body parts of the working class” (Gittlitz 2016; see also Basu 2017). The transhumanist movement, another commentator opined, referring to its American version, is currently “being bankrolled by tech billionaires—up to and including Bogdanov-style blood transfusions.” How did “such visionary dreams and ideas travel from the philosophical salons of nineteenth-century Moscow to the mental rumpus rooms of Silicon Valley?” the same commentator questioned with exasperation (Dillon 2018). They did not, or at least not without losing much of their original ethos. Bogdanov’s notions of selfhood—as well as others I have surveyed in this chapter—clearly take us beyond the sovereign skin-bound self. Like Fedorov and Bogdanov, who ultimately advocated in favor of unifying humanity into a single organism, the future and current technologies advocated by

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transhumanists—from consciousness transfer into a robotic body (Itskovian Body B) to making an entirely prosthetic brain (Body C or Rebrain) to isolating the brain or the head to be frozen in liquid nitrogen—unsettle any stability in ontologies of selfhood. Is the self a database or a soul, a driver or a hologram? The staggering variety in conceptions of body, brain, mind, consciousness, personality, and selfsameness becomes a guide to political and ethical action. Itskov, for example, envisions universal immortality. But first he wants to use the very idea of transcending biology through technology to prompt a conceptual breakthrough, a paradigm shift, making people realize, as he himself professes, that the physical body is not all that there is to the human. Next to Itskov’s acute messianism, cryonics appears to dwindle into a merely rational practice of investing in the self, a sort of insurance policy against death, a radical extension of already mainstream practices aimed at providing one a degree of sovereignty over time, like freezing eggs to delay having a child (Romain 2010). Yet an aspect of cryonics that often gets overlooked is that it is a deeply intersubjective endeavor. Freezing someone’s body in hopes of future reanimation is a form of long-term and intergenerational caregiving. Frozen bodies require maintenance by successive generations, and they also require a community and a society to wake up to. What is distinctive about KrioRus, as opposed to U.S. cryonics companies, is how deeply embedded it is in kinship relations. KrioRus was created initially to provide free or low-cost cryopreservation for activists’ closest kin and only secondarily as a business catering to outsiders. Almost everyone in the inner circle of KrioRus has a grandmother, grandfather, parent, or at least a beloved cat or chinchilla waiting in liquid nitrogen for its “next” life. One could argue that they are fulfilling a distinctly Fedorovian goal of filial duty by striving for the eventual resurrection of previous generations. A “common cause,” indeed. That said, there remains one crucial difference between cryonicists’ and Fedorovian visions. It is a difference that came to the surface recently when Svetlana Semenova (1941–2014)—the most prominent scholar of Russian Cosmism and a devoted follower of Fedorov, responsible for rescuing his legacy from obscurity in the 1970s—passed away in December 2014. Aside from her academic pursuits, Semenova was the key figure in the contemporary Russian religious and philosophical circle of fedorovtsy, or Fedorovians, who follow Fedorov but do not consider themselves transhumanists. As mentioned in the introduction, underlying their ideas is an interpretation of Fedorov’s teaching as an example of “active Christianity,” a Christian practice understood as part of the effort to bring about world transformation. Despite serious

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disagreements about the role of religion in bringing about immortality, some prominent Fedorovians are friendly with transhumanists. As they say, “We share a common enemy: death.” A few days before her death, KrioRus’s Valerija approached Semenova’s daughter, Anastasia Gacheva, offering to perform a cryopreservation procedure. The daughter declined. She explained that while Semenova respected cryonics as one of the avenues of “scientific immortalism,” she did not consider it the only possible way to achieve immortality. Semenova believed, her daughter clarified, that “the development of science will give everyone the opportunity to become immortal, not just the select cryo-patients. Like Fedorov, she wanted not to be among the elect but among everyone” (ne v chisle izbrannykh, a v chisle vsekh, emphasis added). Of the decision to refuse her generous offer (free cryopreservation, as Semenova was very respected among transhumanists), Valerija said she was disappointed but at the same time that she considered such a decision noble. She went on to say that, were there a “fair, state-sponsored cryonics program,” she was confident Semenova would have been more amenable. Some transhumanists, however, beg to differ. Several movement activists said in private conversations that Semenova’s decision not to cryonize was regrettable and is not consistent with the spirit of the “Common Cause.” “What does it consist of, if not that?” they asked. One disappointed transhumanist previously friendly with Fedorovians told me that by refusing to cryonize Semenova, they “failed to make a statement that Fedorovians and transhumanists are allies in fighting death.”46 As Semenova’s daughter reports, her mother, nonetheless, agreed before her death to allow KrioRus to preserve a sample of her DNA, as she believed it to be a democratic procedure that “corresponds to Fedorov’s main idea.” Transhumanists hope that in the future it might be possible to reconstitute a human from DNA alone. Four days before Semenova’s death, Gacheva traveled to the cryonics facility with her mother’s cheek swab. As far as Semenova was concerned, if the universal resurrection is a few centuries or a millennium off, she was just as happy to wait.

46. Interviews by the author, Moscow, March–June 2015.

2 Our Body Must Become Our Cause, the Common Cause

“The worst possible future scenario would be a society made up entirely of immortal egotists,” said Anastasia Gacheva, pouring me a cup of strong black tea. She pushed the big tin cookie jar toward me. “That is why immortality doesn’t make sense without resurrection. Resurrection is a duty to others, to our ancestors.” It was my first visit to the Fedorov Museum,1 located inside a children’s district library on the outskirts of Moscow. I had planned to come for a long time, hoping to meet both Anastasia and her illustrious mother, Svetlana Semenova. Following the work of this charismatic mother-daughter pair, I had been envisioning conversations we would have and the questions I would ask. Then just weeks before my arrival in Moscow in early 2015, I learned that Semenova had died. Her presence in the Fedorov Museum remained palpable, nonetheless. Her works were prominently displayed alongside books by Fedorov and Cosmist philosophers, and a giant portrait of her graced the main hall, hanging next to a reproduction of a painting of Fedorov. “We don’t like it when researchers call us the ‘Fedorov movement,’ ” said Gacheva. “ ‘Organization’ is even worse.” The idea of a “party,” a group that distances itself from others or actively proselytizes, was deeply alien to Fedorov, just as it is deeply alien to us. Cosmism is not a movement. It’s a worldview. Take our seminars, for example. 1. I refer to the institution as the Fedorov Museum, although in Russian it is called a muzeibiblioteka (museum-library). 81

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They might be one of the very few places in Russia where a democrat and a conservative can meet and have a conversation. A transhumanist can come to us, and a smertobozhnik [death worshipper], a person who says “I am for death!” can come to us—we are open to everyone.2 Despite the differences, the transhumanist movement in Russia is inextricably linked to Fedorovians, as Gacheva went on to explain, at the same time narrating her version of the origin history of Russian cryonics. The hinge figure, Danila Medvedev, “first came to our seminar in 1994. He only talked about achieving immortality. And then Semenova asked him: ‘How come you only have immortality? Where is resurrection? What are you, a society of immortal Olympians?’ That got Medvedev thinking, leading him to learn about cryonics and ultimately to the founding of KrioRus.” The first transhumanist meetings taking place at the Fedorov Museum were presented under the rubric of “scientific immortalism.” It was only later, as a result of disagreements, that they split up. “We’re OK with the transhumanists,” says Gacheva. We can argue with them, as we don’t agree on many things. We don’t like that some of them are openly anti-Christian. But what’s important is that our polemics are loving [liubovnaia]. The thing is that despite our differences, there’s a very important common platform between us: it is antideath. We both choose life. The idea of a “choice” of life over death operating to transcend political and religious distinctions has deep roots in strains of early twentieth-century Russian thought influenced by Fedorov. While some transhumanists are hostile to religion and others openly embrace it, sooner or later all of them clash with the Russian Orthodox Church over bioethical issues. Yet the Fedorov movement remains a striking example of how it is possible in Russia to combine immortalist views with Orthodox Christianity, while at the same time ardently embracing scientific advances. While the previous chapter focused on debates within the transhumanist movement over the role of religion and secularism, this one takes a closer look at the contemporary Fedorov movement, exploring ontological differences separating them from transhumanists. I do this by first 2. In the end Gacheva said I could call them a “movement” for the purposes of this book, as long as I didn’t present them as a “sect” or a “party.” With this disclaimer, I use the term “Fedorov movement” throughout.

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placing contemporary Fedorovians in the context of the history of their movement, focusing on what select thinkers from earlier periods can tell us about contemporary debates on science, religion, and the human.3 I then proceed to analyze the life stories of two key personalities of the late twentieth-century wave of the Fedorovian movement, a woman and a man born two years apart. I argue that it is crucial to grasp these two biographies, as they span both the Soviet and the post-Soviet periods, revealing some of the ways in which many in the officially atheist Soviet Union understood religion, as well as wrestled with issues of materialism, evolution, and mind-body dualism. Their stories show specific paths of conversion, helping us understand why some members of the Soviet intelligentsia discovered and adopted the Fedorovian, rather than conventional, take on Orthodox Christianity, complicating the story of Russian immortalism and its genealogies.

To Bury Is to Preserve “They really worked on me when my mother died,” said Gacheva. Speaking about her mother, her tone was thoughtful but hardly subdued. “They insisted on me freezing her. You can’t imagine how they pressured me—it was storm and onslaught!” This was an expression I would come to hear often from Gacheva: buria i natisk. Things seem to proceed with force and more force in her imaginary, and her speech is delightfully literary, including the occasional creative neologism, such as “short-breathedness,” a term we encountered in the introduction indicating mortality, as opposed to breathing for a longer time, or for that matter forever. They so wanted to cryonize my mother for two reasons. First, of course, they really respected her. She was the one who brought the name of Fedorov back from obscurity. But second, it would have been great PR for them—“Semenova herself chose to get frozen with us!” They even offered to cryonize her for free. Gacheva admits to having been tempted. Semenova had been clear about her dislike of “grave entomology,” by which she meant insects attracted to dead

3. For a more comprehensive review of early twentieth-century movements and worldviews influenced by Fedorov, see Hagemeister 1989, 1997; Semenova and Gacheva 1993; Young 2012; Gacheva and Semenova 2008a.

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bodies. The alternative to traditional burial in the ground would be a crypt or a vault (sklep), neither of which is an option any longer in Russia. I considered cryonics for a moment, as I’m an open-minded person. But when I came to their facility to preserve my mom’s DNA—she was still alive, it was four days before her passing—and I saw these poor people all floating in one big Dewar, heads down, like herrings in a jar, I was overcome by pure horror. No way would I allow my mom or any of my loved ones to be kept like this. As we saw in the last chapter, a Dewar is a vacuum flask used in cryonics as a specially insulated storage container. But Gacheva remains fond of the cryonicists themselves. “They were so sweet. Once they realized I was definitely not going to freeze my mom in liquid nitrogen, they offered to make an individual coffin for her lined with dry ice. . . . And mom would just lie there for eternity, in this dry ice, like a Sleeping Beauty.” Maybe she would have agreed—or maybe Semenova would have agreed—but even so the setting was all wrong. The coffin would have to have been kept in a chapel or vault of some sort, something “with a different spiritual lining [podkladka], something more human, more in an ‘active Christian’ spirit. The form in which it exists now— it’s an awful, desperate form. I can see that they are sincere and full of hope that these people will one day come back to life. Yet there remains such a huge gap between what we have at present and the [desirable] future.” The cryonicists offered a corrective from their point of view: “She was impossible to deal with!” said one. “We offered her a free cryonics preservation. But she said that she could not do it for free, because it is not free for everyone, and she didn’t want to be among the elect few who don’t pay. She also said Semenova didn’t want to be resurrected before everyone else. Then we offered Anastasia to preserve her mother’s DNA. She agreed but thought it was too expensive. We again offered it for free, but she again said she must pay, because everyone else does.” In the end, money was raised for DNA preservation. But Gacheva was not yet finished brainstorming ideas on how to improve the cryonicists’ ritual culture. Fedorovians see themselves as “active Christians,” since they believe they must actively work alongside God in the goal of resurrection, as opposed to “passive” Christians, the majority, who are just waiting for it.4 “For example, we could create a network of cemeteries to bury people in permafrost,” she suggested. 4. Russian has two verbs and two nouns for “resurrect” and “resurrection,” respectively. Voskresenie refers to the resurrection of Christ, and voskreshenie to the resurrection of anyone

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That would be a much better way to cryogenically preserve bodies than these mass graves [bratskie mogily] in the Dewars. You see, people need to understand that death is the enemy, so that if we bury people [khoronim], we bury them for preservation [khoronim na khranenie]. “To bury is to preserve [khoronit’ eto khranit’],” she claimed, playing on the etymological affinity between the two words in Russian. “We preserve them, because we suppose that afterward they will rise again [vosstanut].” Indeed, in Russian the words “to bury” and “to preserve” are etymologically related, going back to proto-Slavic roots (Chernykh 1999, 352, 354–55). Gacheva was not the first to notice this common origin. The formal reference would be to an essay titled “O smerti i pogrebenii” (On death and burial) by Nikolai Setnitskii (1888–1937), an early twentieth-century philosopher and follower of Fedorov, published in 1934. A polymath, like many of Fedorov’s followers, Setnitskii studied history, Oriental languages, law, and mathematics at university. After working in various positions as an economist and a statistician, in 1925 Setnitskii relocated to Harbin, China, where he studied the Manchurian economy, taught law and philosophy, and wrote poetry and essays. A few years prior to that, Setnitskii had made the acquaintance of Aleksandr Gorskii (1886–1943), a philosopher who originally trained to be a priest but decided to become a professor of theology. Gorskii introduced Setnitskii to Fedorov’s ideas, and the two collaborated over the next decade.5 Setnitskii begins “O smerti i pogrebenii” with a statement about how the knowledge people had about what happens after death remained incomplete. His interest in the essay is not, as he points out, in what he calls the “psychological” and “metaphysical” question of what happens to the soul but only what happens to the body. Science, he writes, as of yet has no answer to this question, and the process of death and decomposition is not understood. In an echo of Fedorov, he reasons that if we understood the process else. Voskreshenie requires an object, as in resurrection of someone (for example, the resurrection of Lazarus). Similarly, the verb voskresat’ is intransitive, referring to the resurrection of Christ, whereas voskreshat’ is a transitive verb that takes an object, as in resurrect a particular person. Voskreshenie and voskreshat’ might be more accurately translated by the active participle “resurrecting.” 5. By this time, Gorskii had already coedited a key anthology devoted to elaboration on Fedorov’s ideas titled Vselenskoe delo (The universal cause), a paraphrase of the Common Cause. Vselenskoe delo appeared in two volumes published in Odessa in 1914 and in Harbin in 1934. The second volume was edited and published by Setnitskii (reprinted in Gacheva and Semenova 2008a, 257–405).

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of decomposition, we could understand how various parts could be put back together (Setnitskii [1934] 2008, 392). A human is not supernatural and unknowable. It is a mechanism, and we need to know the conditions of its deterioration, breakdown, and final disintegration as a mechanism, so that we can restore it in all its unity and uniqueness. (ibid., 393) Given this premise, a number of questions naturally arise about the business of the restoration of the body. Is it necessary? Is it possible? And, if so, why do we need it? Setnitskii proceeds to provide systematic answers. To the first question he replies that, of course, we don’t want to restore someone to life with “hemorrhoids and cancer”—such ailments would have to be cured. To the question of whether it is possible, he responds saying, first of all he would like to go beyond the banal statements that nothing is “impossible” for modern science. What is necessary is a change of paradigm, a shedding of a psychological illusion that death and dying are necessary, natural conditions. Setnitskii quotes Freud in support of the point: If we are to die ourselves, and first to lose in death those who are dearest to us, it is easier to submit to a remorseless law of nature, to the sublime ’Ανάγϰη [Necessity], than to a chance which might perhaps have been escaped. It may be, however, that this belief in the internal necessity of dying is only another of those illusions which we have created “to bear the burden of existence.”6 (Freud cited in Setnitskii [1934] 2008, 393–94, emphasis added by Setnitskii)7 Setnitskii interprets Freud to be saying that the idea that death is necessary and inevitable is only a coping mechanism. It is easier for us to pretend that we are dealing with “sublime Necessity” than to start figuring out how to prevent our 6. In the original Russian version of Setnitskii’s text, which I used here, the Greek word ’Ανάγϰη is missing from the quote. In the English translation, Freud’s last phrase is provided in the original German. 7. I have found that transhumanists often make a somewhat parallel distinction between a “natural” death that is perceived as inevitable and a death that is viewed as avoidable because it is caused by chance or accident. We tend to avoid the latter but accept the former. Arguing that this separation is a convenient illusion or a failure of logic, Batin, for example, likes to say, “Well, if there is a fire in this building right now, you will run for your life, right? You will want to save yourself, and you are likely to succeed if you run now. So why would you not want to run for your life from this so-called ‘natural’ death, if I tell you that there is a way to do so?”

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loved ones from dying. Certain pioneer scientists are already working in this direction, thinking that perhaps the “law of nature” may not be so remorseless after all, and slowly eroding and derailing the idea that death cannot be overcome. Setnitskii mentions experiments conducted by scientists such as Bakhmet’ev, Carrel, Kuliabko, Andreev, Briukhonenko, and others, who chip away at this “monolith boulder of accumulated human ignorance, which prefers to be seduced by an illusion than to fight it” (ibid., 394).8 If science is on the verge of abolishing death, Setnitskii continues, we need to get busy “creating the conditions” under which life will be restored to the dead. Specifically, we need to start thinking about establishing a rational burial procedure, designed to preserve the bodies waiting to be restored. This is where Setnitskii turns to the etymology of the Russian word “to bury” (khoronit’), supplementing the argument with some of his own observations on ritual. If burial were just about getting rid of the body, with the goal of having it decompose as quickly as possible, then the only reasonable attitude toward the body would have to be what he calls “assenisatory” (from the French assainissement, used in Russian in the sense of sanitary disposal). Bodies would always have been destroyed as quickly and efficiently as possible. But then why have burial at all, when it is not the most efficient way to quickly destroy the body?9 If burial in the earth isn’t the most efficient means of sanitary disposal, even less so are practices in which the body is preserved, such as embalming. To Setnitskii, Egyptian embalming, along with other “magical rituals meant to scare off the spirits of decomposition and decay,” signifies the hope people have 8. Alexis Carrel (1873–1944) was a French surgeon, known as one of the pioneers in transplantology, who first invented the perfusion pump, opening the way for the artificial heart. Carrel also worked in aging research. Carrel is the only non-Russian scientist mentioned in relation to the topic. Russian biologist Porfirii Bakhmet’ev (1860–1913) was famous for his experiments in anabiosis or “suspended animation.” Russian physiologist Sergei Briukhonenko (1890–1960) created a special machine to keep the head of a dog alive in isolation from the body (see chapter 1 for the mention of Briukhonenko’s relevance to the Avatar Project). Another Russian physiologist, Professor Aleksei Kuliabko (1866–1930), worked on reanimation of dead animal hearts and eventually managed to bring a dead human heart to life twenty hours after death. Surgeon Fedor Andreev (1879–1952) also succeeded in reanimating a dead dog and bringing a human heart to life ninety-nine hours after death (Gacheva and Semenova 2008b; see also Krementsov 2013). These names are still legendary in the Russian life-extension community. 9. Setnitskii uses the older Russian word khoronenie for burial here, as it is etymologically related to the word khranenie (preservation).

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always had that “one day life would be restored to the dead” ([1934] 2008, 395). And it is in honor of that wish that he delineates an alternative to assenisatory forms of burial. This is “anastatic” burial, from the Greek anastasis (literally, stand up), referring to the physical resurrection of the body. We face a choice, Setnitskii wants to say, between whether our guiding aim is the restoration or the disposal of the body, concluding sadly that assenisatory methods of burial prevail at present, the most extreme of them being cremation. He sees the beginning of this unfortunate anti-anastatic trend in the way cemeteries are being increasingly moved outside the city limits (ibid., 395). Yet he sees evidence of what he considers more “ancient,” anastatic methods of burial showing through, “consciously or unconsciously,” in unexpected domains. The embalming of Lenin’s body, for example, he says can only be explained by the hope of restoration (despite, as he notes, Lenin’s own famous dictum that believing in “any little god is necrophilia”; [1934] 2008, 395).10 Setnitskii interprets the fact that Lenin’s body was kept within the Kremlin walls and not thrown outside city limits as an “unexpected manifestation of the deepest and probably hidden and unconscious tradition of resurrectory burial” (ibid., 396). Lenin’s entombment, according to Setnitskii, is a manifestation of an archaic but simultaneously “civilized” tradition that urgently needs to be restored in present times. He asks, “Is our solidarity with our dead and dying loved ones weaker than it was for primitive savages and our distant ancestors?” ([1934] 2008, 396). If science is finally really turning toward discovering a cure for death, we need to come up with methods of burial that contribute to the cause by preserving the body as much as possible. One way to achieve this, Setnitskii points out, would be to create mass cemeteries in the permafrost regions of Russia (ibid., 396). Despite his talk of “science” in reference to the preservation of Lenin’s body, it would be erroneous to consider Setnitskii as having anticipated the modern secular take on the body on the grounds of his seeming scientism and materialism. To be noted instead is his interpretation of immortalism as originally a Christian idea that had been suppressed within Christianity itself. This was the view he had attempted to demonstrate in an earlier piece cowritten with Gorskii. The next section considers the idea in detail. Just as we must return to an “originary” form of preservation-focused burial, according to Setnitskii, 10. The phrase (vsiakii bozhen’ka est’ trupolozhestvo) appears in a passage in which Lenin critiques the god-builders (Lenin [1913] 1970, 226).

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it was necessary for Christianity to go back to its alleged original focus on resurrection. Most important, it needed to reconsider its conceptualization of the relationship between body and soul.

Box 2. Three Waves of the Fedorov Movement The Fedorov movement can be unofficially divided into three waves. • The first began with Vladimir Kozhevnikov (1852–1917), a philosopher, historian, and poet, and Nikolai Peterson (1844–1919), who was a teacher. Both became Fedorov’s disciples during his lifetime, and they were the first to collect and publish his works posthumously under the title The Philosophy of the Common Cause. The first volume came out in Vernyi (present-day Almaty, Kazakhstan) in 1906, the second in Moscow in 1913. • Setnitskii and Gorskii constitute the second wave, along with a friend, the diplomat and philosopher Valerian Murav’ev (1885– 1930), who developed some of Fedorov’s ideas into his own philosophy. In his book Ovladenie vremenem (Overcoming time), he argues that science will allow us to master time, making possible the resurrection of the dead (Murav’ev [1924] 2011). Influenced by Setnitskii, a left fraction of a contemporary group called the Eurasianists attempted to combine Fedorov’s ideas with those of Marx, which eventually led to the split in the Eurasianist movement (Semenova and Gacheva 2004, 70–71). • The third wave starts in the 1970s with the Soviet-era rediscovery of Fedorov, leading to an edition of his published and previously unpublished works by Svetlana Semenova (1941–2014). She in turn gathered a new circle of followers. Contemporary Fedorovians claim an “unbroken lineage” through their acquaintance and friendship with Setnitskii’s daughter, Elena Berkovskaia (1923–98), and her friend Ekaterina Krasheninnikova (1918–97), both of whom considered themselves disciples of Gorskii. Today, Semenova’s daughter, Anastasia Gacheva (born 1966), leads the Fedorov circle while undertaking academic research on his legacy. Note: Russian sociologist Boris Knorre, who did fieldwork with Fedorovians in the 1990s and early 2000s, mentions another group called Synthesis (formerly, the Federation

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of the Common Cause), some of whose members considered themselves followers of Fedorov. Their approach, however, was much more in line with contemporary newage practices, as they were equally interested in Hinduism (and even had their own “ashram”), Theosophy, and even “Egyptian religion,” distorting Fedorov’s ideas into “more primitive interpretations of the ‘mystical-theosophical kind.’ ” Knorre writes that the leader of this group, Iuri Pogrebinskii, once tried to register it as a Russian Orthodox brotherhood but was told by a church representative “to first register in the Kashchenko hospital” (the famous psychiatric facility in Moscow; Knorre 2008, 162, 170).

Smertobozhnichestvo: Apotheosis of Death “The teaching about the salvation of the soul,” wrote Gorskii and Setnitskii in a long essay of 1926, is a denial of the words of Apostle Paul (Thessalonians I, 5, 23) concerning the entire matter of the salvation of the spirit, soul, and body. In this form, it is related to the teaching of the apotheosis of death. It becomes necessary for the body to die so that at least part of it—the soul—should be saved. (Gorskii and Setnitskii [1926] 1995, 31) Titled with a striking neologism, “Smertobozhnichestvo” (death-deification or apotheosis), Gorskii and Setnitskii argue that the reason death is accepted without question stems from the different values ascribed to the spirit, soul, and flesh over the history of Christianity. This conviction—which they provocatively call a heresy—derives from the idea that Christ had two different kinds of bodies, one in his human incarnation and a radically different one that he acquired upon resurrection. From this idea stems the progressive denigration of human embodiment to be seen throughout Christianity. It leads to the thought that spirit and soul belong to a higher order, with the flesh considered inferior. As for the biblical scripture that declares “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” over time Christians simply came to ignore it (ibid., 31–32). Gorskii and Setnitskii posit the following beliefs as characteristic of the cult of smertobozhnichestvo: that death cannot be overcome by humans and that only Jesus was capable of it, and only in his divine and not his human nature; that his victory over death resolves the problem of our death as well, resulting in the idea that death, as such, has already been conquered in some way. In this scheme of things, individual deaths are regrettable, but they are also necessary and inevitable for individuals. The question of death, finally, is beyond

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solution by human means. Therefore, it should not be raised as a topic. Death, as such, is sacred (Gorskii and Setnitskii [1926] 1995, 34). To Gorskii and Setnitskii, smertobozhnichestvo is an abhorrence in relation to the “true” Christian teaching. It is essentially the belief that death is somehow “natural” and as such nothing more than a survival of paganism and manifestation of religious syncretism. Yet, unlike other examples of syncretism with pre-Christian beliefs, including certain rituals and customs, smertobozhnichestvo is more dangerous and more deep-seated, like a disease that has been driven inward. They call it an “ulcer.” This ulcer is deeply rooted in the psyche of contemporary man. In words, people acknowledge Christ’s task, but in reality, they are docile before the so-called chaotic and blind forces of nature. It may seem paradoxical that Christians, while professing to follow Christian rituals, would be in reality worshipping the destructive forces of nature, which the authors characterize as a form of “paganism” in its own right ([1926] 1995, 42). Here they are developing a key Fedorovian idea, where he argues for the essentially “anti-naturalist” character of Christianity, calling “pagan” any sign of reverence for the “natural order.” For Gorskii and Setnitskii, as for Fedorov, true Christianity is about transforming nature, not worshipping it. Death is part of the nature to be overcome. We heard a similar theme being sounded in the opening pages of this book, when Gacheva, speaking at the Rally for Radical Life Extension, declared, “The Lord did not create death.” Fedorovians—past and present—are consistent in this belief. Death came into the picture in their view as a punishment. It was not part of the original Edenic state, and God’s plan is for man to overcome it through using his own creativity and labor.11 In the second part of the treatise, Gorskii and Setnitskii attempt to trace smertobozhnichestvo to a pair of heresies that arose in the early centuries

11. Fedorov supposes that God does not want man to have immortality “for free”: humans have to “work” for it. The philosopher goes to great efforts in making a distinction between that which is “gifted” (darovoe) and that which is “worked for” (trudovoe). Anything that is “gifted” does not have value for him. That which is gifted also requires a payback. Natural birth, for Fedorov, is something that is gifted, whereas resurrection is labor, which pays the “debt” of being born. Being born, says Fedorov, in itself is not a payment of the debt but its transferral (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 107–8; emphasis added).

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of Christianity regarding the nature of Christ. Nestorianism, named after Nestorius (386–450), Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, postulates that Christ had two natures, one human and one divine, with the two natures thought of as radically separate. Monophysitism, on the other hand, as asserted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, maintained that Christ has only one nature, which is not human but divine. Both heresies ran afoul of church authorities for denying in their respective ways the doctrine of the equality and inseparability of the two natures of Christ. Both were condemned at the ecumenical councils: Nestorianism was rejected at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and monophysitism at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Gorskii and Setnitskii recognize in the rejection of the two heresies the official reestablishment of the nature of Christ as god-man (bogochelovek) but insist that the heresies somehow survive to various degrees practically in all denominations of Christianity. And such beliefs, they argue, stand behind enduring hierarchies in the perception of the body and soul, which lead Christians to diminish and even renounce embodiment ([1926] 1995, 45–62). Quite unexpectedly, in the middle of this treatise comes an appeal to Marx. Gorskii and Setnitskii propose looking at smertobozhnichestvo as a heresy, which would mean that “the slogan currently being used against religion— that ‘religion is the opiate of the people,’ would be very appropriate for it” ([1926] 1995, 43). Encountering Marx like this in a Christological essay may seem incongruous, but in fact it is a reminder of the time when the essay was written: in 1926, nine years after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Three years later Gorskii would be arrested, and spend the next eight years in a labor camp. Against all odds he survived, returning to Moscow in 1937. Setnitskii came back from Harbin in 1935 but had no work in Moscow and lived in poverty. In a last desperate attempt to get his ideas heard, he wrote to the famous writer Maxim Gor’kii, who enjoyed a high status in Soviet society and with whom he previously corresponded. “It is tragic,” he wrote, that not a single builder of socialism risks saying that without fighting death, it’s impossible to think about socialism. Communism cannot be built without victory over death. (Setnitskii [1936] 1995, 409) The letter was never sent, as Setnitskii learned of Gor’kii’s death that same year. In 1937 Setnitskii was arrested and shot. Gorskii was arrested again in 1943 and died in prison a few months later. Their demise ended the “second wave” of the Fedorov movement in Russia.

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Box 3. The Anarchists-Biocosmists While I do not consider here the numerous writers, philosophers, scientists, and poets influenced by Fedorov’s ideas, one group should be mentioned, as immortalism is central to their thinking. The AnarchistsBiocosmists were a group of revolutionary poets and artists started in 1921 by Aleksandr Sviatogor (Agienko) working together with Pavel Ivanitskii. They created a club in Moscow called the Creatorium of Biocosmists (creatorium, or kreatorii, being a play on the word “crematorium,” krematorii). Among other publishing ventures were four issues of the journal Biokosmist in 1922. In that same year, the poet Aleksandr Iaroslavskii joined the movement, creating a “northern” group in St. Petersburg, which published the journal Bessmertie (Immortality), as well as Iaroslavskii’s own poems, including the Poema anabioza (1922). The Biocosmists’ platform offered an interesting secularization of Fedorov’s ideas, summarized in three goals: immortality, interplanetarism (space travel), and resurrection. Combining their excitement about contemporary scientific advancements in rejuvenation research with their support of the 1917 revolution, they reasoned that the fight for social justice must include a fight against death. Not only were mortality and the related limitations in time and space the ultimate evil to be overcome, but only the fight against this ultimate enemy would be a cause capable of uniting humanity. They denied having been influenced by Fedorov, accusing him of being overly religious and having an archaic (“atomist”) notion of resurrection. Also averse to the predetermined nature of Fedorovian “brotherhood,” Biocosmists rejected the emphasis on kinship, replacing brotherhood with “comrade-in-armery” (soratnichestvo) and reordering Fedorov’s priorities. If, for Fedorov, the resurrection of ancestors is the primary goal, with immortality and space travel appearing necessary consequences, the Biocosmists demoted resurrection to third place and raised immortality to the first. The Biocosmists combined provocative literary activities with popularizations of scientific research, organizing lectures and talks by scientists. Sviatogor was arrested in 1937 and sent to a labor camp, from which he never returned. Iaroslavskii was sent to a labor camp in 1928, where he died. Ivanitskii was sent to a labor camp in 1930, from which he returned in 1933, and his subsequent fate is unknown (Gacheva and Semenova 2008c).

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For a full appreciation of the main point made in Gorskii and Setnitskii’s magnum opus, it must be kept in mind that the particular importance of the salvation of the whole person—body, soul, and sprit—was not an exotic notion invented to promote Fedorov’s ideas. On the contrary, as émigré Russian religious philosopher and theologian Vasilii Zen’kovskii (1881–1962) clearly established, the centrality of embodiment to resurrection is a key thread in Russian Orthodox theology. That it would also be of crucial importance to Fedorov and his followers shows how firmly these ideas are rooted in Russian religious thought.12 Consider, for example, this passage written by Zen’kovskii in 1935: If one’s faith is weak, one might not feel the reality of resurrection. One cannot deny, however, that it is precisely the idea of resurrection, that is the restoration of corporality in a human, which gives us clues to the puzzle of the body. Christian teaching, which maintains that Christ, upon his resurrection, has ascended in his body, that he resides in heaven in his glorified body, posits with incredible strength the principle of embodiment [telesnost’], as an inalienable ontological characteristic of human personality [lichnost’]. Personality needs the body for its life. Outside the body, a personality can only live a greatly diminished life, in expectation of the resurrection of the body: without the body, there is no wholeness. Thus, in Christianity the uniqueness of each personality also applies to the body: it is not that a new body is created upon “restoration,” but a former body is “resurrected.” The very notion of resurrection, in order to have a real meaning, supposes that upon the destruction of the body, not everything disappears in human corporality. It does not matter how we think of that 12. Gorskii and Setnitskii suggest that Russian Orthodoxy may be less inclined to smertobozhnichestvo, as in their view, the practices of icon worshipping and name worshipping are grounded in the body through vision and sound, and thus represent a merging of human and divine energies ([1926] 1995, 79–87). Name worshipping (imiaslavie) was an early twentieth-century Orthodox movement, based on the postulate that the name of God is God, although it made little headway in the established church and is considered a heresy. The controversy reached a dramatic pitch in 1913, with the Russian government sending an imperial fleet to storm the center of name worshipping, a monastery at Mount Athos in Greece, arresting and deporting hundreds of Russian monks who refused to denounce it. Name worshipping subsequently became popular with contemporary Russian intelligentsia, including mathematicians, who used mystical insights from name worshipping to achieve breakthroughs in mathematical problems (Graham and Kantor 2009).

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“stamp” [pechat’] of corporality. What is important is that what is raised upon resurrection is “that very” body, which a person had—not in the sense of the material composition (because even during one’s life material composition never remains the same), but in the sense of the unique and inimitable connection of a given soul and a given body, which one has in life as well. (Zen’kovskii 1935, 97) Zen’kovskii thus regards it as crucial that upon resurrection, the “wholeness” (tselostnost’) of the person be restored. Is not allowing its destruction in the first place—that is, not dying at all—a more radical take on this “cherished problem” in Russian religious thought (Karasev 2001, 124–25n15)? Some eighty years later, having lived through the Soviet antireligious campaigns and then the late Soviet “return” of religion, many contemporary followers of Fedorov continue to insist with undiminished conviction on the importance of embodiment. Lev Regel’son is a prominent theologian and active participant in the Fedorov circle. We will meet him in more detail in the next section. He compares the “bodiless existence” of the soul after death to a kind of amputation. Invoking the phenomenon of “phantom pain,” he takes death to amount to the amputation of the entire body, which causes “global suffering” for the soul. According to Regel’son, the souls of the dead cannot be satisfied by their fate and must be living in hope of their human embodiment being restored. As proof, he offers the argument that the body of Christ postresurrection was a real body consisting of atoms, molecules, and cells—the same body Christ received upon birth. The reason for him to eat and drink with his disciples after the resurrection, Regel’son says, was to soothe their anxieties that he might be a ghost. On this basis, Regel’son is able to propose a solution to the long-standing theological debate about materiality and the equivalence between the body of Christ before and after the resurrection. Christ’s resurrected body, Regel’son argues, acquired certain new characteristics by being exposed to God’s grace, but it did not stop being a material, individual body. Similarly to many of his predecessors, Regel’son denies that bodiless existence could be fully human, so that humans are still facing the same crucial choice today as in the early days of Christianity. We can aspire to return as fully embodied human beings, that is, to follow Jesus’ example and resurrect our own body, or we can deny our human nature and agree to remain a bodiless being consisting only of the soul, like “an angel or a ghost.” If there is one meaningful religious division in the world today, it is along the lines of embodiment, says Regel’son.

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“Unfortunately, the majority of souls, even those with a Christian upbringing, seem to choose the second way: the way of disembodiment and unhumanning [razvoploshcheniia i raschelovechevaniia].”13 We encountered similar concerns in the previous chapter with this threat of becoming “unhumanned,” as expressed by the present-day Russian Orthodox Church Fathers Vitalii and Vsevolod in their respective critiques of transhumanists. So an explication of this triangulation of positions—“official” Russian Orthodox, Fedorovian, and transhumanist—may be in order. The unhumanning of the human posited by the representatives of the Church bears on the progressive cyborgization of the human, whereby the body comes increasingly to rely on mechanical and electrical prostheses. Seen from that point of view, any potential future restoration of cryopreserved bodies will not turn them back into “real” humans. Regel’son, on the other hand, uses disembodiment and unhumanning as synonyms, arguing that even seemingly commonplace Christian notions like the immortality of the soul and the separation of body and soul upon death carry the danger of unhumanning. Like contemporary Fedorovians, Father Vitalii stresses the importance of the body being reunified with the soul, but in popular Orthodox discourse, the idea of the immortal soul continues implicitly to be dominant over the immortal body, with the emphasis usually falling on the “salvation of the soul” and not the body. It is such notions, Gorskii and Setnitskii would claim, that lead to the humble acceptance of death in smertobozhnichestvo. Where Fedorovians seem to converge with Fathers Vitalii and Vsevolod is on the key distinction between the body and technology, the organic and the inorganic, life and nonlife. It is this distinction, in fact, that separates both of these standpoints from that of the transhumanists, for whom the rejection of such binaries is a central ontological tenet. Yet, while superficially similar to Father Vitalii’s arguments, the reasons behind Fedorovians’ suspicion of cyborgs could not be more different. If the latter are suspicious of cyborgization, it is not because they think the body should not be altered through human intervention. Quite the contrary: like transhumanists, Fedorovians actively agitate for the radical transformation of the body, to the point of immortality. The difference is that they prefer other kinds of enhancements. It is to these debates that I turn in the next section.

13. Lev Regel’son, interview by the author, Moscow, January 2016.

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Table 2.1. Views on Bodily Enhancements

Criteria

Transhumanists

Body-technology distinction? Bodily enhancements? Type of bodily enhancements

No Yes Any (prosthetic, organic)

“Official” Russian Orthodox*

Fedorovians

Yes No None

Yes Yes Organic only

* The Russian Orthodox Church makes an implicit distinction between “enhancement” and “treatment,” similar to the overt one made in bioethics. Most generally, alterations to the body made with the goal of “perfectibility” (usovershenstvovanie) are understood as enhancements and are rejected (see “Problems of Bioethics” section in Russian Orthodox Church 2000).

A Body Was Given to Me—What Do I Do with It? “Transhumanism is a movement of necrophiliacs. Yes, that’s exactly the right term for it,” said a thirty-something man with slick hair swept to the side. He was wearing a worn brown turtleneck and sporting decidedly unfashionable thick-rimmed glasses. I was on the verge of falling asleep when I heard the words, and they snapped me back to attention. It had been exactly five hours and thirty minutes since the start of the seminar on the philosopher Valerian Murav’ev, the friend of Gorskii and Setnitskii noted in the last section. It was February 2015, and among my first visits to the Fedorov Society seminars held at the Fedorov Museum located in the south of Moscow toward the end of the orange metro line. The lecture hall was packed. The usual seminar format was to have one main speaker followed by free-flowing discussion, sometimes including spontaneous mini-presentations and formal responses by members of the audience. The mention of transhumanism surprised me, since it is scarcely the normal fare in a seminar devoted to religious philosophy. Admitting that he was a bit of a newcomer to the field of Fedorov studies, and Russian religious philosophy in general—his earlier focus had been on Eastern philosophy and before that psychoanalysis—he nevertheless felt compelled to speak about something that was clearly bothering him. “What is necrophilia?” said the speaker, to a somewhat startled audience. He proceeded to answer his own question: It is a replacement of the living [zhivoe] with the nonliving [nezhivoe]. The living is that which is organic and, most importantly, that which is sentient

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[chuvstvuiushchee]. From what I understand Fedorov and Murav’ev were going to overcome the stage of organic existence . . . “What are you talking about?” broke in Anastasia Gacheva rather brusquely. She was the main speaker at the seminar and clearly had little sympathy with the misunderstanding. “Fedorov talks about organic progress. They [Fedorov and Murav’ev] don’t renounce the living [zhivoe].” Whether or not the speaker was aware of it, “organic progress” is the expression Fedorovians coined in opposition to “technical progress,” to signify “organic” improvements to the body, that is, such improvements that involve no prosthetics or cyborgization. What they have in mind is similar to what regenerative medicine strives for: the ability of the body to regenerate cells, tissues, and organs. “Maybe so,” responded the speaker. “But didn’t Murav’ev talk about humans in the future having something like ‘electric bodies’? As to Fedorov, well, perhaps I didn’t read him carefully enough. Maybe Fedorov supposed we can remain organic. But for Murav’ev, definitely, in the Pleroma,14 the intention was not to remain organic. Transhumanists suggest eliminating the living, and that is why I . . .” At this point, a solemn-looking old man with shoulder-length straight gray hair interrupted. He had a distinctive almond-shaped face with a fine elongated nose, reminding me both of icons of Orthodox saints and of depictions of Orthodox startsy (elders) in movies. This was Regel’son himself, one of the oldest members of the Fedorov Society. “Well,” he said calmly, “if you want to be fair to transhumanists, they preserve [bodies] in order to reanimate them [ozhivit’],” he said. “That’s right, at least of this, they are not guilty!” shouted someone from the audience—“this” probably referring to the love of death. Then, before the speaker had a chance to respond, Gacheva again intervened: They are not planning to eliminate the living [zhivoe]. They just think that at this stage, civilization has created for itself the world of digital technologies. And now, at this stage, [these technologies] can produce immortality for humans, at least in digital form. Like in their Avatar Project . . . 14. Pleroma, a term used both in Christian theology and in Gnosticism, here means both a spiritual universe and a divine fullness of being. Murav’ev has some gnostic motifs in his play Sofiia and Kitovras (c. 1920) that Anastasia discussed that day (Anastasia Gacheva, lecture on Murav’ev, Moscow, February 28, 2015).

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“To preserve in order to reanimate [ozhivit’],” the long-haired elderly man repeated slowly and flatly, like a mantra, and shrugged his shoulders. “We are up-to-date about transhumanism,” Gacheva hurriedly tried to reassure the speaker. She sounded as if she had had this discussion many times and now was bored by it. “And we argue a lot with them.” “Wait, let me explain,” objected the speaker. “How is the human defined in contemporary philosophy? A human is a being that is unfinished [nezavershennoe], but whole [tselostnoe]. Transhumanism purposefully destroys this wholeness.” Regel’son visibly shrugged his shoulders over this consideration, but the speaker continued undeterred. “The introduction of chips and implants is definitely a deformation of the psyche. People must already be damaged in the emotional sphere if they are going to spread and develop such ideas. But they want to make the situation even worse!” “I am sorry to interrupt,” broke in Gennadii Aksenov. “But can I register this as an official complaint to the police [zaiavlenie v prokuraturu]?” Aksenov is a noted scholar of Vladimir Vernadsky and another active participant in the Fedorov seminars. He was sitting at the head table behind the speaker, hoping with the quip to provide some comical relief. Which indeed it did. But it also had about it an ominous ring. Recent Russian laws had made it a criminal offense to utter hate speech that might be deemed “extremist,” including offending someone’s religious feelings, so the ground was very slippery. “Stop!” said Gacheva hopefully, but it was too late. Everyone was laughing, and the seminar was getting completely off track. As I would learn, digression was not uncommon at these meetings, but Anastasia, ever the skillful moderator, was usually able to handle it. This time, she rose from her seat in the audience and walked to the front of the room. Standing next to the speaker, she clearly demonstrated her desire to change the topic. “Just two more words about transhumanism,” pleaded the speaker, quickly forging ahead without waiting for a reply. Transhumanists have their own logic—an iron-clad logic, by the way. They say that humanity has been moving in this direction for a long time. In general, they’re right. But this is a situation where you have the criminal saying in court: “Why are you condemning me this time, when I’ve been committing this crime all along?” It’s very possible that the cyborgization of humanity is our real future. I don’t argue that it’s not going to be like that. But it’s definitely not what these Russian philosophers were dreaming of.

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Although the discussion raised themes similar to the ones invoked by Orthodox believers in their debates with transhumanists (see chapter 1), the Fedorovians’ reasons for the objection to cyborgs and man-machine merging differ greatly from the ones cited in “mainstream” Orthodox circles. While many Orthodox object to any self-directed transformation of the human, Fedorovians argue exactly the opposite: we must transform our bodies. However, for Fedorovians the transformation must be accomplished not through technology but through “organic progress.” Technical progress has to do with constructing machines and tools, often theorized as extensions of organs; organic progress, on the other hand, would involve the perfection and transformation of the organs themselves. We have become very advanced in terms of technical progress but in regard to organic progress not at all. For Fedorovians the unavoidable question arises: Why should the body lag so far behind technology?15 “It is difficult for us to agree with the movement that puts its primary hope on the technical and artificial,” Gacheva once said during a short speech to a seminar series called “Udovol’stvie zhit’ vsegda” (The pleasure of always living), held periodically by transhumanist activists to explore cutting-edge anti-aging research. Gacheva first noted her dissatisfaction with the use of the term “pleasure” in the name of the seminar (udovol’stvie), urging that it be replaced by “joy” (radost’).16 Then she stated perhaps the main Fedorovian idea regarding enhancements: Transhumanism tries to separate man from nature, to create an artificial environment in which humans would be immortal. But Cosmists always 15. Adopted originally from the nineteenth-century philosopher of technology Ernst Kapp (1808–96), the idea that tools are extensions of human organs was popularized and developed in Russia by Pavel Florensky (1882–1937), a priest and philosopher who was trained as a mathematician. Assigned by researchers to the “religious” branch of Russian Cosmists, in his acclaimed essay “Organoproektsiia” (Organ projection) ([1969] 1993), originally written in 1922 but not published until 1969, Florensky reflects on the parallels between human organs and tools, following Kapp in terming the latter “organ projections.” Thus the hammer extends the arm, railroads extend the circulatory system, and the telegraph extends the nervous system (Kapp [1877] 2018). But Florensky goes beyond simply subscribing to Kapp’s basic idea of the parallelism between tools and bodily organs. Instead, he argues that technology will both reveal and enhance the body, eventually changing it and perhaps discovering organs that were previously “hidden” (Florensky [1969] 1993, 161). 16. Gacheva was drawing a distinction between “pleasure” in the sense of something more selfish and consumerist (as in the pleasure we get from a bath or an ice cream) and “joy,” as a higher feeling.

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said that immortality is only possible with the overcoming of the entire mortal order of existence. It can’t happen in an isolated “reservation” [odnoi rezervatsii] but only when the very laws of nature become different everywhere. This is much more of a global task. Besides, a human is a natural being [prirodnoe sushchestvo]—for us our bodies are a key thing. “Excuse me,” grumbled a member of the audience, “but aging doesn’t wait!” He was clearly irritated by her line of reasoning, the implication being, who wouldn’t prefer living in a cyborg body to not at all. “Why this clinging to the body?” he implored. And, indeed, it is a puzzling question. How can we be talking in grandiose terms about changing the laws of nature, while at the same time insisting that humans are “natural beings” who must not be separated from nature? Ignoring the interruption, Gacheva quoted the opening lines of a work by the famous Russian poet Osip Mandelstam: A body was given to me—what to do with it, So unique and so much my own? (Dano mne telo, chto mne delat’ s nim, Takim edinym i takim moim?)17 The poem is a standard reference for Gacheva. As she explained on a different occasion, “The reason we want to retain our corporality [telesnost’], our unique bodies, is because we think of our ancestors as being recorded in the body.” As bodies we are what she calls ancestral (rodovaia) memory. “So how can we accept rejecting this memory by transferring ourselves into a computer or a cyborg?” To do away with one’s body is to do away with one’s entire kin, and thus the need to find ways to improve the body we have. “We are not clinging [to the body], we are improving [it],” she summarized. It’s not a bad thing to employ technology as a continuation of the body, creating extensions in the image and likeness of our organs. But “technology is kind of 17. Most translations, including the one I provide here translate edinym as “unique,” although it can also be translated as “whole.” The poem, titled “A Body Was Given to Me” (1909), reads: “A body was given to me—what to do with it, / So unique and so much my own? // For the quiet joy of breathing and living, / Who is it, tell me, that I must thank? // I am the gardener, I am the flower as well, / In the dungeon of the world I am not alone. // On the glass of eternity has already settled / My breathing, my warmth. // A pattern prints itself on it, / Unrecognizable of late. // Let the lees of the moment trickle down—/ The lovely pattern must not be wiped away” (translated by Albert C. Todd; Todd and Hayward 1993).

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a crutch.” We should learn to renew our own organism, preserve and transform our corporality, and perhaps even make it more independent of nature and the environment. Back at the Fedorov Museum, with the seminar threatening to go into its sixth hour, Gacheva was still trying to recoup the increasingly animated discussion of cyborgs. She promised in the future they would host a special seminar on transhumanism. Viktor Dolgii, another of the seminar’s active and devoted participants, raised his hand: “Please, just a brief commentary,” he said, standing up. He displayed a journal, which would turn out to be an issue of Etnograficheskoe obozrenie (Ethnographic review), a major Russian academic anthropology journal. “Here is a peer-reviewed journal,” said Viktor. “It devoted its entire December issue to . . . cannibalism. Yes, cannibalism. They talk about transplantology being a version of cannibalism. They say that any organ replacement is a version of cannibalism.” “Well, isn’t it?” shouted someone from the audience. “Yes, of course, it is,” replied Dolgii matter-of-factly. He said he fully agreed with the journal’s position. “As soon as we start changing organs, we return to our primitive state. We start devouring each other.” “That’s what they’re already doing in Ukraine!” shouted the same voice from the audience. “The carnage!” The reference was to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine that was continuing at that point into early 2015. “Wait,” objected Dolgii. “At least they’re not eating each other in Ukraine. At least not yet.” “Let’s drink tea!” shouted a clearly exasperated Gacheva, appealing to the fact that everyone must be exhausted. And people finally got up and started mingling. Of the many seminars, discussion groups, lecture series, workgroup meetings, and other gatherings I attended during my year and a half in Moscow, Fedorov Society seminars were often the most animated and passionate. The primary means for exchanging ideas within the group, the seminars could go on for hours after they were scheduled to end, and at some point I learned to bring along food, as I often found myself ravenous before the “official” tea time. I was embarrassed to be evidently the least resilient participant, despite the public being generally older, with many members of the audience in their seventies and eighties. It was a diverse community, some with PhDs, while others had never attended college, and there was at least one person who was occasionally homeless. The seminar was started by Gacheva’s mother, Svetlana

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Semenova, in the mid-1980s precisely as an open platform in the Fedorovian spirit of radical egalitarianism.18 Following Semenova’s death in 2014, Gacheva took over as the main convener and moderator. “We are open to everyone,” she likes to say. “We follow Fedorov’s teaching, calling on us to unite the literate and the illiterate, the old and the young, the religious and the secular.” Many participants have been attending the seminar for over thirty years. One person related how it’s possible to stop attending for several years and then come back and pick up where one left off. And it still feels like family. With the need to end the seminar, the question raised by Viktor was not adequately resolved. But it is also one that frequently came up. While I had not heard any specific statements against organ transplantation voiced by Fedorovians, they were clearly wary of its potential to be exploitative. The anthropological metaphor of “transplantology as cannibalism,” that is, viewing the body of the other with greed, certainly hit home with many of my interlocutors.19 And it is precisely for this reason that making “organic progress,” acquiring the ability to transform the body independent of external supports—whether technological, as with prosthetics, or organic, as in the case of organs received from others—is of paramount importance to Fedorov’s followers. Organic transformations of the body were of such central importance to Fedorov himself that he coined several key neologisms specifically on this theme. We should learn to perform our own tkanetvorenie (literally, tissue making) and organosozidanie (organ creation). We need to be able to grow new organs on demand, when we need them. A polnoorgannyi human (that is, a “fully organed” one) will be able to change organs as needed, according to the environment (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 301; Fedorov [1913] 1995d, 295). Further developing the idea of organic progress, Gacheva likes to point to how we can learn from animals that know how to regenerate organs— salamanders, for example, which can grow their tails back. Fully organed humans would result from the accumulation of such knowledge and, according to Fedorov, would be immortal, as they would not be subject to time: “time itself will be a field of their activity.” This may sound like transhumanist 18. While the seminar was formally created in the mid-1980s, since the 1970s Semenova had been organizing “Fedorov’s Evenings” (vechera pamiati Fedorova). Anastasia Gacheva, interview by the author, Moscow, July 2015. 19. See Ikels 2013 for a review of anthropological takes on organ transplantation, including the notion of “neo-cannibalism.”

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aspirations to achieve fantastic levels of superhuman self-perfection, but for Fedorov and his followers, the inseparability of personal immortality from the resurrection of every human is always central. Until we are able to resurrect the dead, we will remain mortal and ephemeral; instead of the coexistence of all generations, we will succumb to the usual sequence of them, with new generations forever pushing out the old (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 301). “Our body must become our cause,” Fedorov wrote, with telo (body) and delo (cause) alliterating nicely in the Russian (nashe telo dolzhno byt’ nashim delom). The task, insists Fedorov, lies not “in the egotistic sense of self-mastering [samoustroenie; literally, self-construction]” but can only be performed in that “we return life to our parents” (ibid., 82). The value of the body thus stems not from its potential perfectibility but from its status as a container of ancestral memories. And it is in this most literal sense that the resurrection of ancestors requires the body. There is no clinging here to the “natural” or any “irrational” fear of technology, as transhumanists often suspect Fedorovians of being prone to. Fedorov is a notoriously difficult read, and many transhumanists, while proud of being able to claim such an illustrious predecessor, admit finding him inaccessible. Upon close examination of Fedorov’s writing, however, clinging to the natural may be the one allegation most consistently undermined at the very core of his philosophical system. As we saw in chapter 1, Fedorov’s assessment of nature—at least in its current state—was quite critical. While some transhumanists argue that Fedorovians insufficiently critique the natural order, the opposite critique—that the fatal flaw in Fedorov’s philosophy is that he separates humans from nature—confronts Fedorovians from critics in the “naturalist” camp. Yet none of these critiques is correct: Fedorov neither clung to nature nor wanted to conquer it. Quite the opposite of separating humans from nature, he regarded humans as currently part of what he considered a “debased” natural order, marred by mortality and accompanied by what he called a “feeding frenzy” (pozhiranie; literally, devouring; Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 281). Painting an unsightly and deliberately dreadful picture of the “natural order” resting on species devouring each other, he puts humans at the top of the food chain, the greatest devourers of all and unfortunately part and parcel of the debased order. The idea was further developed by his followers: “Try looking at what goes on through the eyes of a cow,” wrote Svetlana Semenova in her 1970s underground manuscript on Fedorov. “It goes through a daily Auschwitz on account of humans. They move it around in

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containers, keep it in a state of panic, bellowing and in despair for days before slaughtering it” (1994, 9).20 Fedorov returns frequently to the metaphor of the frenzied food chain. If any organs need to be transformed or simply eliminated to begin with, it would probably be the ones involved in digestion. “Feeding should become a conscious-creative process, in which humans transform elementary cosmic particles [chastitsy] into mineral, then vegetative, and finally living tissue” (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 281). Semenova singles out this particular insight of Fedorov’s, arguing that it was later developed by the well-known Russian biogeochemist Vladimir Vernadsky, whom she places in the Cosmist tradition. Vernadsky suggested that humans will eventually develop themselves to be autotrophic, or self-feeding, in which organisms use light or chemical energy to synthesize their own nourishment out of inorganic substances. Green plants, for example, are autotrophic in their use of solar energy for photosynthesis (Semenova 1994, 162–66; Vernadsky [1925] 1993a). Autotrophic feeding on the part of humans would help resolve the problem of the feeding frenzy, opening up the space for the further pursuit of the common cause.21 For Fedorov, species displacing other species by feeding on them is not unlike ancestors being displaced by their descendants. Parents find their energies drained by children, who inadvertently feed on “their body and blood.” To drive the point home, Fedorov draws provocatively on the notion of “viviparity as parasitism”—where “viviparity” is a biological term denoting the live birth characteristic of most mammals—arguing that the embryo drains 20. To illustrate this point of the disharmony of nature, Gacheva and Semenova like to recite a poem by modernist poet Nikolai Zabolotsky (1903–58) called “Lodeinikov.” In the first half of the poem, the character named Lodeinikov contemplates the beauty and harmony of nature, and then suddenly he realizes its “other” side: “So there it is, the harmony of nature! / So there they are, the voices of the night! / So this is what the waters murmur about in the darkness, / What forests whisper about as they sigh. / Lodeinikov listened. The dull rustle of a thousand deaths passed over the garden. / Nature, having turned into a hell, / managed its tasks without ceremony. / A bug ate some grass, a bird pecked the bug, / a polecat ate brain from the bird’s head. / And from the grass the faces of the night beings, / convulsed in horror, looked on. / The eternal winepress of nature / united death and existence into one tangled ball. / But thought was powerless to unite her two sacraments.” (English translation cited in Pratt 2000, 162). 21. Unlike contemporary Cosmists, Vernadsky did not claim that autotrophy should be achieved through human effort. He speculated that it would be an inevitable “natural” development, a “pinnacle of the long paleontological evolution” ([1925] 1993a, 302).

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maternal energies, just as raising children inevitably moves parents toward death over time (Fedorov [1906] 1995a, 278).22 Feeding is related to birth, as both are “natural” and “unconscious” processes. Death, in turn, is tightly connected to the cycle of nutrition. Just as humans devour other species, upon death, they themselves become food as well. “The ulcer of vibrios [foodborn infections],” writes the philosopher, “will not cease, since while there is birth, there is death, and where there is a corpse, there vibrios will gather.” To counteract this vicious cycle of birth, feeding frenzy, and death, Fedorov developed his own special theory of sublimation. In contrast to “negative celibacy,” simple abstaining from sex, which risks putting an end to the human species as such, he proposes what he calls “positive” celibacy, involving a kind of rechanneling of sexual energy. Noting the “surplus” or “excess” (izlishek) of energy expended for birth, Fedorov urges people to redirect it toward resurrection, to sublimate rather than suppress it. “The goal is to not only not be born, but to become unborn, all the while restoring from yourself those who gave birth to you” (ibid., 279–80). Creating parents “from themselves,” children quite literally give birth to their parents, in an act of filial duty that amounts to repaying a “debt of resurrection” (ibid., 249–96). Coining a pair of neologisms for the purpose, Fedorov terms resurrection ottsetvorenie (father making) and patrofikatsiia (patrofication, a Latin-based version of the term; see, for example, Fedorov [1913] 1995e, 163). Having launched an attack on nature, Fedorov sees its opposite not in artifice or technology but in conscious human activity, thus paradoxically placing the human both within and outside of nature. While humans have something to learn from nature (for example, how to create organs), all nature should ultimately become more human—but human in a transformed form. Nor is “artificial” the opposite of the natural but “Christian.” If, for Fedorov, the natural is blind, unconscious, and the source of evil, the Christian is about the transformation of nature. If nature is about “devouring,” then Christianity, in its “negative” sense, is about “fasting,” and in its “positive” sense about a process of re-creating one’s own organism to change the way it feeds. If “nature” is about birth, then Christianity, in the negative sense, is about abstinence, and in the positive about universal resurrection (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 281]. Humans 22. Fedorov quotes the Russian zoologist Viktor Fausek (1861–1910), who developed the idea of viviparity as parasitism. More recently, immunologist Y. W. Loke called the placenta “a parasite upon the mother,” which has “literally burrowed into the substance of her womb and is siphoning off nutrients from her blood to provide for the embryo” (Loke 2013, 105).

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who manage to “regulate” their own body, so as to become “unborn” and to restore their parents from themselves, become material. But their materiality, Fedorov stresses, is “no different from spirit” (ibid., 280). Of all of Fedorov’s difficult ideas, “becoming unborn” and the re-creation of the parents from one’s own body are among the most challenging, but they are key to understanding his notion of the human. Closely connected is the notion that this materiality is of a special kind, namely, spirit. As fanciful as it may sound, this rapprochement between matter and spirit does not originate strictly with Fedorov.23 Here he is drawing on Orthodox Christianity, which posits that matter can be “spirit bearing” (dukhonosnaia), that is, is capable of acquiring spiritual characteristics, simultaneously making spirit “an improved kind of matter” (Wiles 1965a, 128). Contemporary Fedorovians sometimes call the ontology suggested here “high materialism” (vysokii materializm),24 and while this relationship they see between spirit and matter is key to understanding them, it has also been a source of considerable confusion regarding Fedorov’s theories. The difficulty surfaced with some of the earliest interpretations of Fedorov by Russian religious philosophers. To some of them, he was a naïve materialist. According to Nikolai Berdyaev: “When he talks about death and resurrection, he is always talking about the body, bodily death, and bodily resurrection. The question about the fate of the soul and spirit is not even raised” ([1915] 2004, 464).25 “The concept of the human turns out to be the most vague. It remains unclear who dies and who resurrects: body or person?” writes Berdyaev’s contemporary, Orthodox priest and theologian Georgii Florovsky ([1937] 2004, 719). Others regarded such a vulgar materialist understanding of his teaching as a reductio ad absurdum: Fedorov, they 23. Young writes, “We cannot say that in Fedorov’s thought spirit is subsumed under matter or that matter is subsumed under spirit. He believes in both matter and spirit, and insists that if they exist separately now they must be unified in his project. And like his other unities, the unity of matter and spirit will admit of neither division nor fusion” (1979, 98). The latter condition is also Fedorov’s plan for the ideal existence of humanity: humans will not be divided, so as to maintain unity, nor will they be fused, so as not to lose individuality, a kind of multiplicity-in-unity (he uses the words nesliannyi [not-fused] and nerazdel’nyi [not-divided]). 24. Semenova mentions this term in a 2002 talk show titled Project Resurrection, where she was the guest along with theologian Valentin Nikitin (Proekt Voskreshenie. Programma Aleksandra Gordona, 2002). 25. In a different work, Berdyaev writes that Fedorov tends to “naturalize Christian mysteries” and does not understand the “mystical meaning of death” in Christianity, as after Christ’s sacrifice the way to salvation is through death ([1926] 1927, 124).

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argued, certainly did not advocate the return of the dead to continue their existence in the same state they were in during their lifetime. Resurrection is only possible on the condition of a transformed body (Berdyaev [1915] 2004, 403, emphasis added).26 Still, while Fedorov certainly allows for another level of existence beyond the physical, he mentions the soul only occasionally. Consider the following passage: The human soul is neither a tabula rasa, nor a sheet of blank paper, nor a lump of soft wax that could be made into anything. It is two pictures, two biographies, united in one image. The more subtle become our perceptions, the more attributes of heredity open up to us and the clearer the image we have of the parents arising [here Fedorov uses the verb vosstavat’, to rise, which is sometimes used to mean “to rise from the dead”]. (Fedorov [1906] 1995a, 282) The notion of the soul being invoked by Fedorov has more of a “scientific” than traditional Christian meaning. Contemporary followers ascribe the related idea of bearing “traces” of ancestors in our body as anticipating insights gained from genetics, which was only starting to emerge as a science during this time. Fedorovians think of the philosopher as likewise anticipating futurist biotechnologies, from cloning to regenerative medicine. Unlike “mainstream” Christians, who are sometimes quick to condemn biotechnologies, Fedorovians welcome them.27 Rather than reacting to developments based on arbitrary dogma, religion should embrace them, even while its main role should lie in providing moral guidance to science. As Boris Knorre writes, in this context, biotechnologies acquire soteriological significance. Genetic engineering and cryobiology become a divinely ordained pursuit (2008, 124–25). Indeed, in pursuit of the ultimate goal of resurrection, religion should take the lead, establishing itself as a moral compass, an idea that Fedorovians refer to as

26. Sergii Bulgakov (1871–1944), Georgii Florovsky (1893–1979), and Nikolai Berdyaev (1874–1948) are representatives of Russian religious philosophy—modern religious philosophy that developed in Russia, starting from the late nineteenth century. Philosophers belonging to this tradition drew and elaborated on classic Orthodox doctrines but expressed them in the language of Western thought. Fedorov is considered to have been very influential on this tradition (Kornblatt and Gustafson 1996; Valliere 2001). 27. See the bioethics policy of official Orthodoxy (Russian Orthodox Church 2000).

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the “Christianization” or “religionization of science.”28 For them, the point of departure is always religious: science is to be exploited as a means to an end, not to the detriment of the spiritual work that is in order as well. We need to transform our corporality, as Christ did, so that it is Christ’s transfiguration that serves as the model for the bodies to which Fedorovians aspire.29 Fedorov’s difficult writing style left plenty of room for interpretation, so it is not surprising that his followers don’t always agree among themselves on perhaps the fundamental issue, which is how to conceptualize the human. To understand the variety of interpretations currently in circulation, it helps to take into consideration the various paths by which contemporary Fedorovians, many of whom grew up officially atheist in the Soviet Union, came to religion in the first place. Looking into this issue in some detail will reveal what other ontological assumptions they might be operating under. Contemporary Fedorovians cannot be considered in isolation from the historical context of wider Soviet intelligentsia’s fascination with Orthodox Christianity, as well as the prevailing paradigm of dialectical materialism that was at the base of both the “hard” and “soft” sciences in the USSR.30 In the next section, I explore these issues by juxtaposing the life stories of two Fedorovians of the same generation, whom we have encountered briefly in previous pages, with the theories of the human they put forward. The first is Lev Regel’son (born 1939), a prominent and active participant in the movement; the second is Svetlana Semenova (1941–2014), the mother of Anastasia Gacheva and founder of the contemporary Fedorov movement.

The Spirit of Dialectics “When I first read Fedorov, I was impressed with his idea of defeating death. I mean, such boldness! On the other hand, I immediately had a question: OK. 28. Gacheva and Semenova write that one of Fedorov’s main ideas was what they call “Christianization of scientific knowledge and creativity” (1995, 506), which is central to how Fedorov’s followers view the relationship between science, religion, and society. As Setnitskii wrote in 1934, if any religion had a chance to survive in the USSR, it would be Fedorovian Christianity. If it were to survive, it would only be on the grounds of its potential to Christianize science and technology, “as Fedorov originally envisioned” (Setnitskii [1934] 2003, 447). 29. Anastasia Gacheva, interview by the author, Moscow, July 2015. 30. See Graham 1974, 24–69 for a fascinating discussion of dialectical materialism in Soviet science and philosophy.

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But how is the body to be restored?” This was Lev Lvovich Regel’son, a charismatic man of seventy-six with long hair and chiseled features. We met him in the previous section, speaking in defense of transhumanists at the Fedorov Society seminar. Trained originally as a theoretical physicist in the Soviet era, he came under the influence of Orthodox Christianity, eventually becoming something of a self-trained theologian who supported himself doing odd jobs. During the twenty hours of conversation I recorded with him on various occasions, we returned frequently to the complex of questions he finds most fascinating: How is the Fedorovian resurrection to be achieved? What is the relationship between body and mind, body and soul, and spirit and matter? Like me, Regel’son is a night owl, and I rarely left the tiny atelier in Moscow’s historic center, where he was staying with a friend, before 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. It was late into the night on one occasion that he shared with me his own theory of embodiment: The problem is that the dead body is not preserved anywhere. It decays. There is nothing left. This question bothered me for years: Where could the information of the individual body have been retained? Fedorov thought we would roll back the kinship line: children would restore ancestors from out of themselves. But I had some reservations about this idea. Of course, genes are passed through ancestors. But that’s not the whole picture. Genes are not everything, because the body is also a biography. My body lived its history, which my parents did not live. My parents gave me certain basic structures, but only I live my biography. The body is nothing without biography. Here it was sick, here it was healing, here it was suffering, experiencing joy, certain foods, having impressions. That’s why it’s only possible to resurrect an individual body only if the information about its history from conception to the moment of death has been preserved somewhere. No matter how hard I thought, I could not envision any other carrier except some kind of soul. But I am completely against the idea of the preexisting soul, about the soul being embedded [vlozhena] in the body. . . . So the concept I advance causes my fellow Orthodox believers to call me a materialist. And I do not deny it. Yes, I am a materialist who believes in God.31 Done with his confession, Regel’son went on to explain what he meant by his “materialist” theory of the soul. He believes that the soul is created after the body as a kind of offprint of the material, physical body that stores information. 31. Lev Regel’son, interview by the author, Moscow, December 2015.

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This allows him to fill in the argument left incomplete by Fedorov: it is from the soul that the body can be restored in the future. “The soul is not just a static offprint of the body,” Regel’son said: It is an offprint of the body with all the organs, cells, and its entire biography. It constantly changes, because the body lives: it experiences its history from conception to death. This means the soul preserves not just an offprint but something more akin to a movie replaying the dynamics of the physical body. Of course, Christian denominations will all take issue with this interpretation. I am not even talking about Eastern religions, which completely denigrate the body. By “denigration” of the body in “Eastern religions” (by which he meant Buddhism and Hinduism), Regel’son had in mind his understanding of the idea of reincarnation, in which the body is no more than a temporary abode and therefore replaceable. While criticizing that idea in particular, Regel’son was nonetheless taking a position along the lines of another Buddhist and Hindu tenet, which is the existence of “other” matter, referred to by Regel’son as “subtle [tonkaia] matter.” Physical matter is what we study in physics, he explained, “but there is also subtle matter, which nobody cares to study. Nevertheless, humans have accumulated a large body of mystical experience related to it.” To Regel’son, subtle matter is just as “real” as any other kind of matter, and if it has not yet been studied by a rigorous science, certainly it will be in the future. “Yes,” he continued, “it is subtle matter, but it is still matter.” It is an objective reality that exists independently of our consciousness. To use the language of Marx and Engels: “Matter is an objective reality existing outside of consciousness”—I can sign on to every word in this statement. . . . I once talked about my theories to a very sweet and educated elderly Orthodox lady. I was very young, about twenty-eight years old, and I was really going off on all kinds of bold ideas. She listened patiently to me for a long time, and then said, “You’re talking about God like a physicist.” I didn’t even understand what she meant at the time. Later I did understand: I believe I am talking about God like a physicist, as something existing outside of my consciousness. I posed what seemed to me the obvious question: “And how does she believe?” “Well, she just believes,” he responded.

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“So in her opinion, you believe like a physicist, and she believes . . . like who?” “Like a normal Orthodox Christian. . . . Like a normal believer.” “So,” I probed, trying to be more concrete, “God for her is not an objective reality. Then how does it exist for her?” “She doesn’t have a notion of objective reality that applies to a religious subject. Outside of her religious perspective, she thinks in materialist terms, but in the spiritual realm, for her somehow the notion of matter is not applicable. As in: ‘I feel him in my soul, that means he exists.’ The subject of whether he exists outside of perception is not even raised.” “And your approach seemed strange to her, because it is . . .” “More materialist. That’s exactly what she was saying: ‘like a physicist.’ And I’ve encountered this all my life with both educated and uneducated Christians. Fedorov, although deeply Christian . . . didn’t like all the psychologizing. He felt it was dangerous. But I still diverge here from Fedorov, because I think you can’t avoid the soul. The soul is a thing [veshch’]. The human does not exist without the soul, just as he does not exist without the body. Early church fathers, as far back as the second century, wrote: ‘What is the soul? It is a soul of a human, but it is not a human. What is the body? It is the body of a human, but it is not a human. But soul and body together are a human.’ ” While sharing the transhumanists’ materialism, Regel’son was disagreeing with them on a key point: in his telling the mind cannot be “substrate independent,” that is, capable of being moved from one substrate to another, such as from the brain to a computer or from one body to the other. The idea of uploading the mind to the computer, as proposed in the Avatar Project, reflects “an old, Manichean dualism,” Regel’son scoffed. “Or maybe a Zoroastrian one.” Or in any case a dualism that “recognizes the two essences but separates them.” Clearly fatigued from our endless late-night metaphysical back-and-forth, Regel’son declared his dislike for philosophy, with which he was ultimately not comfortable. “I am a physicist and a theologian,” he proudly announced. “I am suspicious of philosophy because its terms are unclear. I can only talk about something if it is concrete and real.” Regel’son’s curious blend of physics and theology is not new. It frequently appears in Euro-American conceptions of the affinities to be found between science and mysticism, in particular in popular new-age books often written by scientists. A prominent example is the best seller written by the Austrianborn American physicist Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (1975). Capra is of the

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same generation as Regel’son, in fact, born in the same year (1939), so it could be viewed as a common interest on the part of a religiously inclined 1960s generation. Dazzled by their own orientalizing fascination, Western new-age writers have been quick to posit the inherent superiority of non-Western religions, citing their alleged greater compatibility with science as the basis for a critique of Christianity. Regel’son, on the other hand, although intimately familiar with Buddhism and Hinduism, chooses Christianity. More important, any resemblance between Regel’son’s approach and those taken by his Western counterparts is superficial, as on the whole, the life trajectory of these believers born in the Soviet Union could not have been more different from the typical experience in the West. Members of Regel’son’s generation largely were born and grew up in the context of an atheist state, where the practice of religion was actively persecuted. The Soviet 1960s, known in the West as the time of Khrushchev’s liberalization, were also a time of especially virulent antireligious campaigns. Like many members of the Soviet intelligentsia, Regel’son came of age with no religious commitments at all and converted as an adult as the result of a process of intense spiritual searching. In the forcefully secularized society of the time, religion held the special appeal of forbidden fruit for the 1960s generation, where it survived as part of the cultural underground. Some Russian youth of the time became interested in “Eastern” practices, such as yoga, but many more discovered Orthodox Christianity and have remained steadfast believers their entire lifetimes. “I grew up in a Jewish communist atheist family,” Regel’son said. “It goes without saying that I have never heard anyone in my family talk about God. If they did talk about faith, it was usually ironic.” Regel’son was born in Kaluga, “the town of Tsiolkovsky,” as he likes to say. His mother was Russian and his father Jewish. At the end of World War II they separated. Regel’son was six and at that point started living with his father. They moved to Moscow, and after graduating from high school Regel’son began his university studies in physics at Moscow State University. He graduated in 1962 and until 1965 was, in his own words, a “normal Soviet man.” In addition to physics, he was fascinated by philosophy. Having worked his way through the entire Western canon “philosopher by philosopher,” he took on Indian philosophy. But I didn’t like the idea of an impersonal God. I don’t know where it came from, but I really needed two things from a God: he should be all powerful, and he should be someone with whom I could have a personal relationship.

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Where did I get it? Is this something Jewish? But I didn’t have a Jewish upbringing either. My grandfather was an atheist; my grandmother was working closely with Lenin from 1919. Perhaps I got it from Russian literature, from Dostoyevsky. What Regel’son was describing is “god-seeking” (bogoiskatel’stvo), a yearning for God.32 He tried out various “Eastern” and new-age practices that were popular in underground circles, discovering that he had some “non-ordinary abilities.” “I realized I could talk to the dead. I understood that the soul does not die. It went against all I knew about physics.” With these new experiences Regel’son found his worldview shifting. In the 1960s, he became active in the so-called Universitet molodogo marksista (University of the young Marxist [UMM]). Supported by the Central Committee of the Komsomol, in the hope of reenergizing interest in Marxism among young people, UMM was created in 1962 by a group of young intellectuals led by physicist and philosopher Valerii Skurlatov (born 1938). Reminiscing on old times in 2010, Skurlatov termed the choice of the name for the organization “purely pragmatic.” As he recalled, “the magic word ‘Marxism’ opened a lot of doors in our country back then.” In reality the interests of UMM members went far beyond Marx, ranging in particular from Nietzsche to Russian religious philosophy.33 In the interest of building networks, UMM members were dispatched to the far-flung regions of the former USSR. Regel’son once ended up in Tuva, an autonomous republic on the border of Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It was there that he first encountered believing Christians, who

32. “God-seeking” is the name given to an early twentieth-century circle of Russian intellectuals known for rejecting official Marxism and searching for new religious meanings. 33. See Skurlatov 2010. In 1965 Skurlatov submitted a notorious proposal to restructure the Komsomol into a military organization of a “fascist type.” This caused a scandal, after which the University of the Young Marxist was closed. In the 1970s, besides fighting “world Zionism” by promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, he became an advocate of the so-called Book of Veles, a literary forgery, telling the history of pre-Slavic tribes and linking them to ancient Indo-Iranians. The Book of Veles became a cult work of Slavic neo-paganism, which became popular among Russian nationalists. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the 1990s, Skurlatov and his associates became active in various conservative and extreme nationalist political movements. In the 2000s, Skurlatov became less active in politics but attempted to create his own “quasi-religious teaching, which included the elements of Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, The Book of Veles, and ideas of Nikolai Fedorov. Since then, his main aspirations have been human immortality and resurrection of ancestors” (Mitrokhin 2003, 412–16; Shnirel’man 2012, 40–82).

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turned out to be a group of Old Believers, the descendants of Christians who refused to accept the liturgical reforms introduced by the Patriarch Nikon in seventeenth-century Russia.34 “That’s exactly how I imagined Christians,” Regel’son said. “These weren’t refined urban sorts but the old ones, the ones who escaped from Peter the Great’s reforms many centuries ago. They didn’t try to ‘sell’ me any of their ideas, neither did they preach. They were just sincere and radiant.” Shortly after returning to Moscow, Regel’son underwent a personal “mystical experience,” after which he fully embraced Christianity. “I had already felt something like this,” he said pensively of the experience. “Perhaps it was in my mother’s womb. Afterward, I felt something like resentment regarding the people who raised me. Couldn’t they have just granted some slim possibility that God exists? They always said ‘no’ so confidently. But I don’t blame them, they were lost themselves.” In the meantime, under Marxist guise, the UMM activists pursued their own varied interests. Skurlatov, who was fluent in German and was fascinated by the “occult roots of fascism,” started practicing a kind of “dark mysticism.” Regel’son shook his head in disapproval over that: “These were serious things, a romanticism of evil.” He, on the other hand, moved in the direction of Russian Orthodoxy. He met Father Aleksandr Men’ (1935–90), a charismatic priest who converted several generations of the Soviet intelligentsia—many of them Jewish—to Christianity.35 Men’ ultimately became a true celebrity preacher. By the end of the Soviet period, when antireligion campaigns faded, he was filling stadiums and bringing thousands to religion through his particular ecumenism and his readiness to build bridges between science and religion (Kornblatt 2004, 79). Men’ did not become Regel’son’s main teacher, because in his striving for “authenticity,” Regel’son decided that Men’ was not “orthodox” enough. He softened everything to make it easier for people in the intelligentsia to come to the faith. The Bible describes thirty miracles, but he recognized only two. I needed a priest who believed that the holy water is really holy. 34. For a historical ethnography of Old Believers, see Rogers 2009. 35. In her book Doubly Chosen: Jewish Identity, the Soviet Intelligentsia, and the Russian Orthodox Church, Judith Kornblatt explains that Soviet Jews in the post- Stalinist period often converted to Orthodox Christianity in an act of solidarity with other Russian dissidents and the Church in the face of Soviet persecution (2004). Men’ was brutally killed in 1990, and his murder was never solved.

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Regel’son was nonetheless among the many who were baptized by Men’, although he chose a well-known priest from Men’’s circle, Father Nikolai Eshliman, to be his spiritual guide (nastavnik). Still the quest for authenticity continued until Regel’son met Father Serafim (Serafim Romantsov), an Orthodox elder from Sukhumi, a city in northwestern Georgia and the capital of contemporary Abkhazia. From him he learned of a group of hermit monks living in the Caucasus mountains. Perhaps they were the ones who considered “holy water really holy.” Regel’son started making regular pilgrimages to Abkhazia. In the early 1990s, he made an unusual move: he traded his Moscow apartment for a place in New Athos, a town fourteen miles from Sukhumi, home to a famous Orthodox monastery and named after Mount Athos, an important center for Orthodox monasticism in Greece.36 Ever since, he has been spending his time between Moscow and New Athos. Regel’son had been introduced to Fedorov’s ideas before his dramatic encounter with Christianity in the 1960s, but he had not made much of his teaching. That did not change until the late 1980s, when he ended up at one of Svetlana Semenova’s seminars. “I remember the time he first came to our seminar,” Anastasia Gacheva told me, “because the first thing he did was take the microphone and pull Fedorov’s arguments to bits.” She laughed remembering the incident, as Regel’son later became a family friend. Regel’son, in turn, has said that he always takes in new ideas slowly and carefully. It took him a long time to start appreciating Fedorov, and Semenova’s publication of Fedorov’s complete works played a crucial role in the process. “Semenova always gave me her books,” Regel’son recalled. “And I am known for ‘torturing’ books, underlining, and writing notes all over it. I would return a book I’d treated like this to her, embarrassed, but she would tell everyone: ‘That’s exactly how one needs to read a book!’ And then she would give me a new clean copy.” By the time Regel’son experienced it, the Fedorov Society had already existed for some time through the efforts of Gacheva’s indefatigable mother, to whose life story I now turn my attention. Semenova was born in August 1941, with World War II already underway for two months in Russia. At the time her family was living in Chita in the trans-Baikal region of Siberia. Her father was drafted months before her birth, and she did not meet him until she was four. “From early childhood,” said Gacheva, relating the story with her characteristic literary flair, “Mom was familiar with what she would later call ‘the 36. Coincidentally, Mount Athos in Greece is the place where the tradition of name worshipping mentioned earlier started.

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seamy side of being’ [iznanka bytiia], the ‘swarming unconscious’ [kishashchee bessoznatel’noe], the chaotic nature of life.” Semenova’s “early memories are full of rats and mice running everywhere.” In one, when she was two and a half years old, she was home alone with rats running loose in the house. When the adults returned, they found her on top of a tall cupboard, where she had retreated with an album of family photos. “They found her sitting there nervously tearing the photos into little pieces. Later she recalled how these rats were killed with poison and thrown into the garbage bin, and how she had felt sorry for them.” In 1958, Semenova entered Moscow State University to study philology. With a particular interest in French existentialism, she wrote her master’s thesis on the novels of Sartre and Camus. Shortly after graduation, she married Georgii Gachev, a well-known philosopher, who was twelve years older. Gacheva speaks warmly about her parents. “Dad always used to joke,” she said laughing, ‘When I married a young philology girl [filologinia], I thought I was getting a secretary. But I got a Socrates instead.’” At some point Semenova turned away from existentialism in favor of Russian religious philosophy and soon enough encountered Fedorov. Similarly to Regel’son, she grew up in an atheist family and found her way to Orthodox Christianity after a period of soul-searching. “I knew it was time to find an anchor [pritulit’sia; literally, to nestle against somebody or something],” Semenova said in regard to her conversion in a documentary film about the family.37 Many years later, when the children were adults, she and Gachev had another marriage ceremony, this time in a church. Semenova’s interest in Fedorov got started when she was attending the Tsiolkovsky Readings, a conference series devoted to the heritage of the famous Soviet pioneer of space exploration, held annually in Kaluga since 1966. In the 1960s, open talk about Fedorov was not permitted. But on the arguable claim that Fedorov’s ideas had been an inspiration for Tsiolkovsky, people found an opening. And Fedorov’s name started being heard occasionally in the context of the space program. Not many people were aware at the time of his religious leanings. Around this same time, Semenova met and became close to the daughter of Nikolai Setnitskii, Elena Berkovskaia (Setnitskaia), and her friend Ekaterina Krasheninnikova. Both were supporters of Fedorov’s ideas, considering themselves to be disciples of Gorskii, which created a sort of unbroken lineage of discipleship. Semenova penned her first piece on Fedorov in 1978, published in the samizdat journal Prometei 37. See Vigilianskaia 2011.

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(Prometheus). The publication, in Gacheva’s words, “had the effect of a bomb exploding.” Fedorov became officially “known.” Semenova spent the late 1970s through the early 1980s writing a philosophical treatise expressing her own take on Fedorov’s ideas, in particular, on materiality, resurrection, and religion. Titled Tainy tsarstviia nebesnogo (The mysteries of the heavenly kingdom), the manuscript could not be released in print on account of censorship. But it circulated underground within the intelligentsia for over a decade (until finally, in 1994, it was published; see Semenova 1994). In 1982 Semenova wrote an introduction to the first anthology of Fedorov’s works to appear since the first private printing of The Philosophy of the Common Cause, which appeared before the revolution (Semenova 1982). Even though, to satisfy the censors, the text included the standard critique of Fedorov for his “misunderstanding of socialism, sociopolitical conservatism, and utopian narrow-mindedness” (Semenova 1982, 50), the appearance of her introduction nevertheless provoked a scandal and an anti-Fedorov media campaign denouncing the publication of works by this “conservative and religious utopian.” According to Gacheva, “They immediately cut her off from publishing [vykinuli iz pechati].” Semenova’s husband was also having difficulty getting published, so the family found itself facing significant financial hardship. “We were fine, though. In the Soviet period, there was nothing wrong with being poor,” said Gacheva. “It was even shameful to be rich.” She finds the value of the Soviet Union in the idea of overcoming, of heroic deeds (podvig), of having some kind of higher goal. “Don’t get me wrong,” she added. “We were no apologists for the USSR.” My grandfather [Gachev’s father], a loyal Bulgarian communist who came to Russia in 1926, was arrested for no reason, when my father was a young child, and spent most of his life in the gulag and died there. My father never saw him again. There was no freedom of speech. My parents were not allowed to publish. Despite all that, the Soviet ethos fostered a collectivist consciousness, put a value on friendship and mutual aid—and these are the qualities that are important for society and for any collective undertaking. Gacheva was of the generation that “constantly witnessed death on TV,” she said, referring to a series of deaths of Soviet general secretaries: Brezhnev in 1982, Andropov in 1984, Chernenko in 1985. She was then in her teens. Yet years prior to that, when Gacheva was a child, her mother “organically removed the fear of death” from her and her younger sister by instilling in them a faith in the imminence of resurrection. Chernenko was the last pre-perestroika

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leader, with Gorbachev appointed to the leadership when he died. Two years later perestroika started, censorship weakened, and following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Semenova was able to publish her major works, some in coauthorship with her daughter, whose scholarship has followed in Semenova’s footsteps (Semenova and Gacheva 1993; Semenova 1994, 2004, 2012; Gacheva and Semenova 2008a). If Regel’son moved from traditional Orthodox Christianity to a Christianity embracing Fedorov’s ideas, Semenova discovered Fedorov first and then absorbed her faith into her own take on the “common cause.” Semenova considers Fedorovian teaching the only meaningful advance made by Christianity since antiquity, calling it a “third phase” of Christianity (after the Old and New testaments) and “the eighth day of creation” (1994, 310).38 Semenova speculates that every particle of the body, even after its decay and dissolution into the elements, preserves a kind of a mark (pechat’, meta) of the soul. Indeed, in one of his most enigmatic essays, titled “Roditeli i voskresiteli” (Parents and resurrectors), Fedorov supposed that particles of dead ancestors would “vibrate” in their graves upon recognizing similar “tremors” in the particles of their living descendants. We are not aware of the vibrations because they can’t be picked up with our “crude organs of hearing” or “any existing microphones” (Fedorov [1913] 1995f, 259). Semenova develops the idea by thinking of resurrection as a reunification of related particles, all bearing the same “marks” from previously having been associated with the same soul. Noting that this resurrection-as-reassemblage view was also advanced by early Christian eschatologists such as Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 395), she regards the modern discovery of DNA as a confirmation of this ancient intuition.39 As she put it in her 1970s manuscript, “despite the fact that our cells are in a process of constant renewal, each one is unique and marked with its own unique code.” 38. Knorre calls Fedorovian Christianity a “quasi-Orthodox” trend, offering a “radical modernization” of Russian Orthodoxy, including rationalist interpretations and disavowing its spiritualist content. He suggests that the Fedorov movement is the only one that preserved some features of the reformist Russian Orthodox organizations of the early twentieth century, such as the Christian Brotherhood of Struggle or Golgotha Christianity (Knorre 2008, 169). Both movements were socially engaged, with many members being representatives of Christian socialism in prerevolutionary Russia. 39. Exploring the doctrines of the early church fathers, Semenova effectively continues the tradition of patristics—a branch of theology that explores the work of early Christian theologians. Patristics became increasingly important in Russian religious philosophy (Kornblatt and Gustafson 1996).

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Restoring all the cells bearing all the same marks, however, does not result automatically in the restoration of personality but only of the “form”—a genetic double—with the “potential” to become the same person one was before. Semenova concedes that it remains to be discovered whether there exists something like a soul separate from the body, and if so, whether it will be described in terms like “quantum waves,” a “biofield” (biopole), or a “cloud of memory” (Semenova 1994, 179–88). Regel’son, for his part, is doubtful about the “particles” theory. “In the Bible, Jesus resurrected Lazarus, but at least he had something to work with,” he protests. “He had the body. How do you resurrect the body that is completely decayed?” Nor is he convinced that it will indeed prove possible to collect particles that decayed thousands of years ago. So he proposes that the only way to resurrect the body is from the souloffprint, which, though invisible, is material. In Regel’son’s model, it is the soul that “calls forth” the body, not vice versa: “each unique soul preserves the memory of its unique body. From the memories recorded in the soul, it will be possible to pattern matter and make the body.” Despite their differences, Semenova and Regel’son are together in agreeing with Fedorov that the resurrected bodies of the future will not be equivalent to our current bodies. They will be transfigured bodies, which while still material will have acquired new characteristics, such as incorruptibility, immortality, or new kinds of organs. In resurrected bodies, matter will be transformed by spirit—an evolutionary milestone in its own right. Both thinkers agree as well in considering the unity of body, soul, and spirit to be the essential Christian idea of embodiment, requiring the interpenetration of the immanent and the transcendent. Pondering this monistic unity, Semenova asks provocatively: What kind of ontology makes it easier to accept that body and spirit are one, a materialist or a spiritualist one? In answer to her own question, she wrote in her follow-up work to the Tainy tsarstviia nebesnogo: In my opinion, the materialist view, trapped inside the immanent, is more able to break out of this “prison,” to absorb the transcendent into itself. For example, materialism easily accepts the existence of leaps [skachkov] in [the evolution of] matter, such as the emergence of consciousness within it, while the transcendent-spiritual view considers body, flesh, and all material things as unworthy, of lower status, and even an illusion. (2012, 92)40 40. Long a controversial matter in the scientific community, the existence of “leaps” in evolution was supported by early Russian Marxists, such as Georgii Plekhanov, who argued

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While many materialists consider consciousness to be an emergent property of matter, Fedorovians propose a teleological concept of evolution, by which they mean evolution that is purposeful, divinely mandated, and human driven.41 The task for humans, Semenova contends, is to “raise” to a higher that only dialectics could explain the fact that gradual changes often lead to a leap (Plekhanov [1891] 1956, 446). Plekhanov was the first to use the term “dialectical materialism,” which became the official framework for the Soviet philosophy of science (Graham 1974, 25). The majority of evolutionary biologists, since and including Darwin himself, have asserted gradualism, yet now and again allegedly missing “transitional fossils” have opened up space for criticism. The Darwin reception in Russia was complex: while the notion of “evolution” was accepted without much controversy, other key points provoked heated debates. On this, see Todes 1989 and Vucinich 1989. Characteristically, it is not Darwin but the American scientist James Dana (1813–95) whom Fedorovians hold in highest regard. A contemporary of Darwin, James Dwight Dana, called by biologist Steven Jay Gould Darwin’s “American alter ego,” came up with the influential theory of “cephalization,” or the increasing dominance of the head. Dana used his notion of cephalization (which Gould calls “wonderfully fascinating and a bit mad”) to identify an evolutionary trend, demonstrated by the concentration of nervous tissue and sensory organs in the brain and head, implying that humans were the ultimate evolutionary development (Gould 2011, 107). Dana’s evangelical Protestant beliefs did not allow him to accept Darwin’s theory, as he believed that the development of life involved various acts of divine creation, which progressively led to humans as the pinnacle of creation. Each species was created to fulfill a divine evolutionary task and possessed a “vital force peculiar to itself,” which insured its “immutability.” Eventually, Dana accepted Darwinian evolution but not the process of natural selection, adhering to neo-Lamarckian views (Rothenberg 2012, 150–51). Fedorovians learned about the work of James Dana through Vladimir Vernadsky, who, according to Semenova, “pulled it from obscurity, reinterpreted it in a clear evolutionary perspective, and introduced to science as the ‘principle of Dana’ ” (Semenova and Gacheva 1993, 5). 41. In the non-Russian world, French paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) was one of the foremost proponents of teleological evolution. Fedorovians hold him in high regard, placing him, along with Henri Bergson, among “European Cosmists.” Semenova devoted a monograph to Teilhard, titled Palomnik v budushchee (A pilgrim to the future) (2009). Teilhard shared many ideas with Vladimir Vernadsky (see chapter 4). So attractive was the idea of a certain direction in evolution that even established scientists sometimes believed in it. Historian of science Peter Bowler points out that “a surprising number of the founders of modern Darwinism were influenced in their youth by progressionist visions of evolution such as Bergson’s theory of the creative élan vital” (2007, 193). The leading twentieth-century evolutionary biologist and population geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900–1975), who was Russian born and remained Orthodox his entire life, also admired Teilhard (Dobzhansky 1971). Unlike Teilhard, Dobzhansky did not believe in a directed or teleological evolution but still retained a notion of evolutionary progress, which most Darwinists today reject (Bowler 2007, 192–204). Dobzhansky “lamented that Darwin named his second great book ‘the “Descent,” rather than the “Ascent” of man’ ” (Milam 2016,

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level their own materiality and their ways of interacting with the environment. Rather than assigning an inferior status to matter, as some religiousphilosophical spiritual systems do, we should “spiritualize” (odukhotvorit’) matter. The point is not to liberate ourselves from matter but for matter to become “spirit bearing” (dukhonosnaia) (Semenova 1994, 121–22).42 While Semenova’s and Regel’son’s materialism can be viewed as stemming from their shared Soviet atheist backgrounds, theirs is not a reductive mechanistic materialism but in a certain interpretation a dialectical one, where matter is capable of transformation to a higher level of organization. “In dialectics they [Marx and Engels] saw the science of the general laws of change,” wrote biologist J. B. S. Haldane43 in his introduction to Engels’s unfinished Dialectics of Nature (1873–83), in which Engels argued that nature is governed by the same evolutionary principles that govern history. The views Engels advanced in Dialectics of Nature, translated into Russian in 1925 but relatively unnoticed by Marxists in the West, became official idiom for both science and Marxism in the Soviet Union (Graham 1974, 1989). Starting with materialism, Fedorovians’ dialectics unfolds onto the metaphysics of Russian religious philosophy with its focus on the dual doctrines of incarnation and deification—two important subjects in Eastern Christian medieval thought (Kornblatt and Gustafson 1996, 5). In Orthodox theology, Christ’s incarnation, or acquisition of the human form, opened up the way for the possibility of theosis, or deification, an attainment of divine “likeness” by humans (Ware 2012, 23). Theosis, it can be said, is precisely the ultimate goal of the “common cause” in Fedorov’s eschatological scheme. Differing from the more general idea of

231). In line with this tradition, the idea of an “ascending” (voskhodiashchaiia) evolution is one of Semenova’s key ideas. 42. The “religious-philosophical” systems she has in mind are, first of all, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the “Eastern” religions, with which Fedorovians associate the desire for a “liberation” from matter. Interested in mastering the body, Regel’son, while on his spiritual quest in the early 1960s, went through a stage of fascination with yoga. However, eventually he realized that his goal was different: “Yogis perfected their mastership of the body. But their goal is that the spirit starts transforming the body and finally the spirit dissolves matter. Not a bad move on their part: first you learn how to master matter and then you eliminate it. What a clever idea: to dominate matter in order to get rid of it. No Christians know how to master the body as well as they do—I was completely seduced by it.” 43. John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892–1964) was a British geneticist and evolutionary biologist. A scientist and a popularizer of science, he is often viewed as one of the major precursors of transhumanism (Bostrom 2005).

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theosis as a transformative process of partaking in divine nature, Fedorovian theosis calls for a particular type of materialism, in which matter is subject to being actively transformed, or to use the Christian term, transfigured. As Wiles observed, in Orthodox Christianity, all matter is theorized as potentially “spirit bearing,” revealing a different “theological status of matter” compared to other kinds of Christianity. In its secularized version, dialectics plays the role of the spirit that moves matter. Spirit, then, becomes nothing other than “an improved kind of matter” (Wiles 1965a, 128).44 ——— “Is it very scary there?” Semenova asked Regel’son shortly before her death. “She always believed I knew something about the ‘beyond,’ ” Regel’son told me. He replied to her, “No, for you it will not be [scary], because you will have Fedorov, your spiritual husband. He is waiting for you and will help you.” And then he added to me, “Before her death, I wrote to her in a letter: ‘Do not be afraid, Svetlana. He, he, and He are waiting for you there.’ She immediately understood what I meant: Gachev [her husband], Fedorov, and the Lord.”45

44. Writing about the rise of ideas about “abolishing death” in 1920s Russia, scholar of Russian literature Irene Masing-Delic points out that during this period “heretically inclined materialists and unconventional religious thinkers could share considerable ideological space.” Citing Wiles’s take on Engels’s vision of matter moved by dialectics, with the latter playing “the part of the spirit,” she writes: “On this basis, the notion of physical immortality as a gradual spiritualization of matter could gain respectability for those who saw themselves as rational materialist thinkers. Similarly, Christians seeking a revitalization of faith could support the idea that death should be abolished as soon as possible without necessarily feeling they were going against Christian thought, since Revelation stated that death not only had been deprived of its sting by the prospect of celestial bliss but also was to be eliminated as a phenomenon at some point” (Masing-Delic 1992, 4). 45. Lev Regel’son, interview by the author, Moscow, January 2016.

3 Ending Death by Disease T h e “ Wa r on Ag i ng”

“On the day Hiroshima was bombed, seventy thousand people died,” said Igor’ Artiukhov, a heavy-set man in his sixties. “Aging kills one hundred thousand people a day.” He was speaking in March 2015 to a roundtable of about thirty people, gathered at the luxurious Hotel National in the heart of Moscow. “Unfortunately,” he continued, “modern medicine doesn’t consider aging to be a disease. It would rather fight individual diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s, although it’s obvious that the reason for dying is not these diseases per se, but the process of aging [starenie] itself. Yet, aging is not inevitable. By this point we’ve discovered dozens of species that are not susceptible to aging. It would be desirable to make humans, too, a species that doesn’t age.” Artiukhov’s comments might sound provocative, but they caused scant commotion at this small gathering. People were nodding, listening attentively. Those present were attending the inaugural meeting of a newly formed Moscow-based grassroots organization called the International Longevity Alliance (ILA), and I was there observing. Attendees had been given introduction packets, including a manifesto proposing “to create a world in which every person is guaranteed healthy longevity through the control of aging, based on the latest scientific discoveries.” By supporting research in biology, popularizing the latest cures and therapies, improving the Russian health-care system, and educating the public, the organization hoped to facilitate the emergence of methods to control aging.1

1. See the website of ILA (Mezhdunarodnyi al’ians za prodlenie zhizni): www.ilarussia.ru. 124

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Artiukhov was the first speaker at the gathering, introduced as a biogerontologist and vice-director of the Institute of Biology of Aging, a private research organization. As mentioned in chapter 1, he was also director of science at KrioRus, working with Valerija Pride and Danila Medvedev from the time of its founding. As the meeting progressed, I learned that those present ranged from gerontologists to journalists and transhumanist activists to a personal growth coach and the director of an anti-aging clinic. Predominantly male and middle-aged, the group was rounded out by two tall blonde women in their mid-thirties seated at the head of the table, the organizers of the event, Daria Khaltourina and Elena Milova. Khaltourina was a prominent lobbyist, known especially for her role in the passage of the anti-tobacco law in 2013 that banned smoking in public spaces in Russia. Milova, whom we met briefly in chapter 1, was a psychologist who has devoted herself to life-extension advocacy only recently, becoming a successful grant writer. As transhumanists, both were supporters of cryonics (and Khaltourina is the daughter of Pride, the general director at KrioRus). Yet in this context they were operating according to a different strategy, seeking to promote life-extension ideas by influencing the policy world from the inside, literally trying to “infiltrate” the apparatuses of power as the way to put life extension on the agenda. Their long-term goal: to elevate unlimited life extension to the status of a Russian national idea. This chapter follows the efforts of the Russian anti-aging forces to bring issues of aging to the national spotlight. The diverse community behind the drive includes academic gerontologists and biologists, transhumanist activists of various stripes (some of whom are also scientists), lobbyists, and science and technology start-up entrepreneurs. As the ideas expressed by Artiukhov suggest, when these activists talk about bringing attention to “issues of aging,” they do not mean promoting healthy aging or cosmetic rejuvenation—although both practices could be part of the larger agenda. They are referring specifically to “radical life extension” (radikal’noe prodlenie zhizni), which is effectively a euphemism for immortality. Bringing public attention to aging involves reframing the issue in terms of two related strategies. One is the medicalization of aging, defining it as a condition requiring treatment in its own right, as expressed in the slogan “aging is a curable disease.” The other is the ethicization of aging—reconceptualizing old age as a moral problem, exemplified in alarmist-sounding statements like the one cited above from Artiukhov: “aging kills.” The ideas underlying the two strategies come together in a rethinking of human suffering, in which aging is

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identified as the primary cause of suffering, and anti-aging technologies are therefore seen as having emancipatory and liberatory potential. Together, these strategies in operation imply a redefinition of the meaning of life, death, and the political.

“Homo Sapiens Liberatus” “How is it possible to speak of adaptation when we are talking about death?” This was the question posed by Professor Vladimir Skulachev to his freshman undergraduate students at Moscow State University (MGU, as abbreviated from the Russian) on the opening day of classes in September 2015. Quoting the nineteenth-century German biologist August Weismann, the professor continued, “Death is a not a primary characteristic of all life. It is the result of a secondary adaptation.” A large white screen behind him displayed in giant black letters: T H E M EG A PROJ ECT: A N AT T E M P T TO A BOL ISH H U M A N AGI NG The original Russian read, “Megaproekt: Popytka otmenit’ starenie cheloveka,” where otmenit’ could also be translated as “cancel,” “annul,” or “do away with.” Back in 1995, I had been a college freshman at MGU myself, studying in the Department of Linguistics. But I never had a professor quite like Skulachev, nor had I ever seen a department quite like his. Founded in 2002, the Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics is the newest department at the university and already one of the most prestigious. Like any number of similarly named departments worldwide, the Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics was established as a direct consequence of the so-called genomics revolution that erupted in the context of the complete mapping of the human genome by the Human Genome Project over the period from 1990 to 2003. Unlike the traditional biology department across the courtyard, the Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics combines training in biology with the rigorous study of mathematics and computer science. One of the founding fathers of the department, Professor Skulachev is now its chair (dekan). This morning lecture was part of the “Freshman Day” for the newly admitted students in the department. “In speaking about death,” Skulachev elaborated, “Weismann did not mean dying from something like a volcanic eruption or a flood. He meant death

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from aging.” Skulachev is speaking without a microphone and so softly the audience is completely silent, straining to hear. He is in great shape for someone who has just turned eighty, erect in his posture, dressed in a nice suit and with a full head of gray hair. Had I not looked him up the night before and learned that he was born in 1935, I would have guessed late sixties or early seventies. He spent the next two hours explaining how he understands the process of aging. His primary point of reference is August Weismann (1834–1914), the nineteenth-century evolutionary biologist known for advancing a theory in which aging arose through natural selection as a positive adaptation that benefits the species (McDonald 2013, 57). In this view, as Skulachev presents it, aging and death are preprogrammed by evolution, in the sense that both are selected to make space for future generations. “People even said that Weismann invented the theory solely because some old professor at a German institution did not want to retire, and it left Weismann without a position,” Skulachev quipped. But what Weismann had in fact proposed was a controversial theory of “group selection”—the idea that natural selection works at the level of the group rather than the individual. Weismann believed that the trait of aging was selected to rid the group of old individuals of postreproductive age. During Weismann’s time, the theory was thought to contradict Darwinian evolution and was widely rejected. Weismann himself renounced the idea later in his career, revising his argument into a new theory of aging as a non-adaptive trait that takes hold in the postreproductive period, where natural selection no longer works to either maintain or remove the trait from the genome (ibid., 57).2 2. Later Weismann came to differentiate between regular cells (“soma”) and the germ line cells (eggs and sperm) that are involved in reproduction and inheritance. Based on that distinction, Weismann argued that aging evolved because in the postreproductive period the germ line cells can no longer be passed on, and therefore the soma cells are not maintained. The soma thus become mortal to support the immortal germ line. Or, in other words, mortality is the cost of successful reproduction. This is the “trade-off hypothesis,” which was later developed by the British biologist Thomas Kirkwood as the “disposable soma theory,” based on the idea that all environments have finite resources and only organisms that make the most efficient use of these resources survive. The disposable soma theory maintains that the most efficient use of resources is accomplished by giving priority to the cells involved in the continuation of the species, the germ line. The job of the soma, the supporting cells, is to maintain the germ line. Thus, once reproduction has occurred, the soma can be “disposed” of (McDonald 2013, 56, 75).

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The seemingly simple question—“Why do we age?”—turns out to be a very difficult one, with no agreement in evidence among contemporary biogerontologists (scientists who study the biological processes of aging) as to what might be the answer. These days, Weismann’s idea that aging is somehow “programmed” has been largely replaced by different versions of the “wear-and-tear” theory, where aging is viewed as a gradual accumulation of random mutations and errors that eventually lead to death. Skulachev, however, belongs to a minority group of scientists (interestingly, most of them in Russia) who continue to insist on the centrality to our understanding of aging of the idea of it being “programmed” into the species. Skulachev is aware that his stance is a defiant one, calling himself an eternal dissident and warning everyone that he was not about to give up insisting on the point that aging is a “program” that gets activated at a certain point later in life and eventually kills us. But there’s good news, he tells the students. If it’s a program, then it can be “turned off.” And the proof, he declares with visible excitement: while humans now only talk about turning it off, some species have actually done it. The students listen intently as he proceeds to tell them about one such animal. The next slide on the big white screen shows a bizarre creature, a strange-looking rodent the size of a rat, with a hairless, tubular, grayish-pink body. Its large protruding front teeth and long whiskers make it look a bit like a miniature walrus. It is the naked mole rat, found mainly in sub- Saharan Africa, although some species live in southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and Mediterranean North Africa. Its looks, however, as the professor is quick to point out, are not at all what makes the animal unusual. Although a mammal, the naked mole rat lives in colonies, similar to many insects. And it lives underground, using its prominent teeth to dig tunnels in the sand. Like bees and termites, mole rats cooperate to gather food, defend themselves from enemies, and mate. The colonies typically have a queen, who is the only female to reproduce. Yet what makes mole rats legendary among biologists is not this peculiar sociality—what scientists refer to as “eusocial,” signifying an advanced level of animal organization, characterized by the specialization of tasks. What first gets the attention of biologists of aging is the mole rat’s extreme longevity. While other rodents of the same size, such as mice and rats, live only two or three years, the current record holder for naked mole rats reached the age of thirty-two, giving it a life span six to ten times longer than expected based on its body size (Naked

Figure 3.1. Naked mole rats. Courtesy of Thomas Park. University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Mole-Rat Genome Resource, n.d.; Kim et al. 2011).3 Second, mole rats show a unique resistance to disease, and age-related diseases in particular. For example, it is claimed by some that they almost never develop cancer. Finally and most strikingly, naked mole rats appear not to show the normal signs of aging. These traits add up to what biologists call “negligible senescence,” which is the reason research groups around the world have been studying this rodent for some time, in the conviction that it “offers great promise as a biomedical model of resistance to disease, and diseases of aging in particular” (Naked Mole-Rat Genome Resource, n.d.). What does it mean to age? Already it has become apparent that the question is not a simple one to answer, as the very definition of aging is highly contested. In the most general terms, biogerontologists define aging as the increased risk of mortality with age. This increase in risk is exponential with age, meaning that at fifty, our probability of dying is higher than it is at thirty, and higher at thirty than at twenty and so on. Aging in this sense of increased mortality is clearly illustrated by graphs like figure 3.2—some version of which was perhaps the most common slide I saw being used across multiple seminars by both scientists and transhumanist activists. This version of the graph shows the correlation between age and the number of deaths per year. While slightly elevated under one year of age, the number of deaths creeps up exponentially over time, jumping especially dramatically after the age of eighty. Having negligible senescence like the naked mole rat means that an individual’s probability of dying does not correlate with age. For an organism with negligible senescence, as far as the science is concerned, this line would be completely flat during its entire life span. The naked mole rat might be one such organism. In the Journal of Comparative Physiology B, Rochelle Buffenstein, a well-known scientist in the field, made it clear why the animals are so important for scientists interested in senescence. Naked mole rats, she writes,

3. Species size is considered to be related to maximum life span within taxonomic groups. Thus the life expectancy of a field mouse is shorter than a rabbit’s, and a rabbit’s shorter than an elephant’s. This also holds with some exceptions within the avian class. Bats and naked mole rats are notable exceptions for mammals. The correlation between body size and longevity does not extend to humans and nonhuman primates. Scientists hypothesize that brain complexity has something to do with this exception, as it helps maintain homeostasis—the ability to maintain internal stability. Intelligence, for example, helps a species escape predators, ensure a successful food supply, and exist over a range of temperatures (McDonald 2013, 19–20).

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(Died in 1 year)/(Survived)

0.5 0.4 Men

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Age, years Figure 3.2. Age-related increase in mortality. Courtesy of Vadim Gladyshev.

do not show the typical age-associated acceleration in mortality risk that characterizes every other known mammalian species and may therefore be the first reported mammal showing negligible senescence over the majority of their long lifespan. Clearly physiological and biochemical processes in this species have evolved to dramatically extend healthy lifespan. The challenge that lies ahead is to understand what these mechanisms are. (Buffenstein 2008, 439)4 And this is precisely the same problem that so fascinates Professor Skulachev. For the big finish concluding the lecture, he flashed a final slide up on the screen: 4. How naked mole rats actually die remains a subject of inquiry and contention. Colonies established in the 1980s in labs and zoos around the world are still going strong. In captivity, mole rats most often die from wounds received in battles with their peers. One biogerontologist told me that they often live too long to be studied by individual labs, as their life span can exceed the career of their researchers. The longest-lived mole rat died at the age of at least thirty-two in 2010 from bone loss. It was captured in Kenya in 1980 and was already a fully formed adult. Buffenstein claimed that it had “started to look its age” about five years before death but that right until its demise it remained the dominant male, first to feed, and possibly still breeding (“S.A.’s Naked Mole Rat Dies,” 2010). Skulachev insists that the exact causes of death among mole rats are still unknown. Despite some disagreements on whether they age at all, most researchers generally agree on the value of the organism for aging research, as it lives much longer than expected based on body mass and may have unique resistance to diseases such as cancer.

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NA K E D MOL E R ATS T U R N E D OF F AGI NG. L ET ’S H E L P H U M A NS TO DO T H E SA M E . If the naked mole rat managed to “turn off” aging through some quirk of evolution we have yet to understand, argued Skulachev, there can be no reason for us humans to leave it to chance. On the contrary, we have an ethical obligation to accomplish through bioengineering what evolution did for the naked mole rat. Although Skulachev has had little to no interaction with transhumanists or contemporary Cosmists, this imperative to conquer aging bears a striking resemblance to positions taken by both, especially in its reliance on a particular ethics of the human.5 In the lecture, he introduced the term he has coined to signify the new human he envisioned coming into being: Homo sapiens liberatus. The meaning of this in Latin is “homo sapiens, liberated.” The graves of the slaves in the Roman empire who had been liberated during their lifetime had this word liberatus written on their graves. What is there for us to be liberated from? From the tyranny of the genome. We are machines who follow the orders of the genome. As a rule, these are quite reasonable orders, worked out through billions of years of evolution, and normally they correspond to the interests of the individual. But in some cases, genetic programs can be counterproductive, that is, harmful to the individual.6 By this logic, aging is one such program. Among biogerontologists the general practice is to divide theories of aging into two rough categories: ones in which the control of development is programmed in Skulachev’s sense and ones in which no programming is involved. The nonprogrammed theories include a variety of explanations for aging, often related to different aspects of the phenomenon. The most important are damage-based theories, also known 5. Being from an entirely different generation, Skulachev has little understanding of the transhumanist ethos, especially the latter’s fascination with cyborgs, avatars, and the like. He considers cryonics legitimate as a type of burial, but he is skeptical of the possibility of reanimation. He is familiar with Russian Cosmism, saying he deeply respects scientists like Umov and Tsiolkovsky. His take, however, is somewhat conspirological, as he considers it a secret centralized organization of the early twentieth century working to immortalize humanity and transport it to other planets rather than a loose philosophical school. 6. Cf. the notion held by some synthetic biologists that evolution is a “tyrant” (Roosth 2017, 42).

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as the wear-and-tear theories, in which aging results from an accumulation of stochastic or random errors, and ideas deriving more directly from the basic theory of evolution (see Gladyshev 2016 for a helpful review of current theories).7 Most biogerontologists adhere to one or another version of the nonprogrammed variety (and frequently a combination of several theories), so Skulachev’s vehement rejection of the idea that aging is to be explained exclusively as a random accumulation of errors and mutations locates him well outside the mainstream. I interviewed Professor Skulachev in his university office a few months after the lecture. Originally trained as a biochemist, he spent most of his career studying how cells transform energy. Specifically, he worked on mitochondria, the energy-producing parts of cells that are thought to play a key role in cell aging (Science News 2016). Where Skulachev diverges from many biogerontologists is not on whether mitochondrial damage is part of the random accumulation of errors but whether there is a trigger, a “program” behind them that allows all of this damage to happen in the first place. As a way of clarifying the point, he quoted Alex Comfort, the British physician and gerontologist (and popular sex writer) who famously noted his refusal to “believe that a horse and a cart age in the same way.”8 Puzzled by what struck me as a sudden switch from extreme mechanicism (the idea humans are machines) to a sort of vitalism (in which living beings and mechanical carts are fundamentally distinct), I had to ask whether he could be making that move intentionally. “No, it’s not vitalism at all,” Skulachev objected. “Carts do not evolve, but we do.” Carts age due to damage and breakage, whereas horses have developmental programs. 7. For example, the free radicals theory is an example of a damage-based theory. It states that over time, cells accumulate free radicals—unstable and highly reactive molecules with an unpaired number of electrons, which often occur naturally in the body and cause oxidative damage. The evolutionary approach implies that forces of natural selection decline with age and that the same genes that convey a beneficial trait early in life can be responsible for a detrimental one later. Thus the calcification of bone is beneficial during fetal and childhood development but detrimental in the postreproductive period, when it can cause calcification of arteries, leading to coronary disease and myocardial infarction (McDonald 2013, 74–75). Gladyshev maintains that different aging theories capture different facets of aging, while remaining on their own incomplete (2016). 8. As Comfort writes, “The differences between an old cart and an old horse are sufficiently striking to make the extensive acceptance of ‘wear’ as an explanation of senescence, and the resort to mechanical analogies . . . largely irrelevant” (1956, 34). Comfort’s theories of aging can be found in his books Ageing: The Biology of Senescence (1956) and The Process of Ageing (1964), popular introductions to gerontology.

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In a way this recalled his metaphor of humans as machines obeying the rule of the tyrannical genome. He had joked that if we were indeed machines, then according to his theory of aging we would be like “these new cars, where they install a special part made by only one company that is programmed to break after a certain time—so that when that part breaks, you need to buy a new car.” We are victims to “planned obsolescence,” in other words. As we continued talking, Skulachev talked about how his “problem” was that he works with mammals. “My friends the botanists would understand me right away,” he lamented. “It is obvious to anyone that plants die because of a program and not because they become old and full of errors.” He pointed to the round yellow and blue logo of the Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics, with the iconic Stalin-era skyscraper (the main building at MGU), ringed by a double helix of DNA and a large falling yellow maple leaf. The falling leaf, he said, symbolized apoptosis—programmed cell death. Biologists distinguish between two fundamental ways in which cells die: apoptosis and necrosis. As opposed to necrosis, when cells are damaged by an external force,

Figure 3.3. Department of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics logo. Courtesy of V. P. Skulachev.

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apoptosis is a much more common phenomenon, a kind of controlled cell “suicide.” In Greek, apoptosis literally means “falling off ” and most commonly refers to the falling of leaves from a tree or petals from a flower. Skulachev calls his theory of programmed aging phenoptosis, extending the principle of apoptosis from the individual cell to the mammalian phenotype, that is, the entire living body. While Skulachev does not dispute the significance of errors accumulating in cells, for him they result from being triggered by a genetic program. Like the program causing a maple leaf to fall from a tree, phenoptosis triggers a slow process of “suicide,” resulting in aging and then death.

Optimistic Biology It is notable that Skulachev considers his programmed aging theory correct and superior to nonprogrammed theories not merely because he believes it to be true but also because it is optimistic. He finds the idea that death results from the accumulation of stochastic errors too pessimistic and discouraging to motivate work on finding a cure for aging. If aging is programmed, he argues cogently, it can be retarded, prevented, and perhaps even reversed by treatments interrupting the execution of this program, just as we already can interrupt programs of cell death. In other words, programmed aging can be cured like a disease. As for the concept of non-programmed aging, assuming occasional accumulation of stochastic injuries as its reason, it is quite pessimistic for finding any way of successful treatment. Here we simply observe and describe such a process without the possibility of action to improve the situation. (2011, 1122) That Skulachev’s ethical stance bears some similarities to arguments advanced by the Cosmists and transhumanists has already been noted, but it resembles even more strikingly the views of the man who coined the term “gerontology,” Russian scientist Ilya Mechnikoff (1845–1916), whom Skulachev considers his hero. Although he was born in Ukraine and spent a large part of his career in France (eventually becoming vice-director of the Pasteur Institute), Mechnikoff is considered the forefather of Russian gerontology in the standard histories (for example, Anisimov, Khavinson, and Mikhailova 2010). An immunologist by training, Mechnikoff received a Nobel Prize (jointly with Paul Ehrlich in 1908) for his work on immunity, specifically, for discovering that certain white blood cells could engulf and absorb harmful bacteria,

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helping initiate an immune response and fight infections. On the suggestion of a colleague, he called these cells “phagocytes” (from Greek phago for “eating” or “devouring,” and -cyte for “cell”). The theory met stern opposition at the time, but it is universally accepted today. By the time he received his Nobel, the indefatigable Mechnikoff had already become deeply involved in his second major topic of interest, aging. Applying his immunological discoveries to this new field of research, he theorized that the cause of aging might be toxic bacteria in the gut. Especially in view of the very long large intestine found in humans, compared to other mammals, this would be the perfect place for bacteria to putrefy.9 Simultaneous discoveries appeared to indicate that lactic acid inhibited the growth of some of these harmful bacteria and therefore could be used in some way to prolong life. Mechnikoff had once done field research in Bulgaria and knew about the exceptional longevity of Bulgarian peasants. He attributed it to their consumption of yogurt, and he himself drank sour milk every day. It is little known that the source of our contemporary obsession with yogurt, probiotics, and “friendly” gut bacteria is none other than Mechnikoff.10 Making it to the then ripe old age of seventy-one, Mechnikoff led a life as fascinating as it was eccentric. He finished his doctorate at twenty-two and became a full professor at the age of twenty-five at Novorossiisk University in Odessa. His life otherwise was full of disruptions and upheavals. Political events in late imperial Russia often forced him to hop from position to position in different parts of the empire, before finally finding a safe and stable haven at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He was married twice and twice attempted suicide, the first time by taking a large dose of opium after his first wife died from tuberculosis, and the second when his second wife contracted typhoid. (He injected himself with typhoid bacteria to die along with her. Both recovered.) It was only later in life that he developed his “optimistic” philosophy, 9. Mechnikoff regarded the large intestine in humans as evolutionarily unnecessary, even going so far as to suggest that surgical removal might prolong life (granting that the problem of more or less instantaneous evacuation required might create problems in terms of quality of life). 10. As Mechnikoff ’s biographer notes, the modern yogurt industry as such was born following a public lecture by Mechnikoff titled “Old Age” that took place in Paris in 1904. In the lecture, he outlined his hypothesis about aging as a “chronic infectious disease” caused by harmful microbes in the large intestine, which could be counteracted with the beneficial bacteria synthesized from Bulgarian sour milk (Vikhanski 2016). Mechnikoff is now considered a precursor to the contemporary Human Microbiome Project (Podolsky 2012).

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resulting in what life-extension historian Ilya Stambler has called “optimistic biology” (2014, 21–22).11 In his classic works, Etiudy o prirode cheloveka (Studies in the nature of man) ([1903] 1961) and Etiudy optimizma (Optimistic essays [1907] 1988),12 Mechnikoff develops the idea of an essential “disharmony” (disgarmoniia, razlad) that characterizes the human condition.13 Among such disharmonies, Mechnikoff cited rudimentary organs lacking any pronounced physiological significance, such as the hymen, body hair, wisdom teeth, and the appendix, as well as certain sociophysiological disharmonies, such as the frequent discrepancy between sexual desire and excitability. The most significant disharmony, according to Mechnikoff, is the existence of aging and the fact that humans, unlike other animals, are conscious of their ultimate finitude (Mechnikoff [1903] 1961, [1907] 1988).14 Our bodies tire, and yet most people report that they want to live on. For this and many other reasons, Mechnikoff considered most deaths to be “premature.” A premature death, according to Mechnikoff, is “unnatural.” Mechnikoff thus considered old age pathological and thought we needed to learn how to live to our full potential life span, which he placed at around 150. Once we live 11. The term “optimistic biology” also appears in American psychologist John William Atkinson’s (1923–2003) review of the work of American biologist Edwin Grant Conklin (1863– 1952) (Atkinson 1982). 12. Both titles were first published in French and then translated into English and Russian. Although official Russian translations did not appear until much later, Mechnikoff ’s key ideas were well-known in Russia since the late nineteenth century through his previous publications in Russian. For example, many of the ideas elaborated in the first book had been published some sixteen years earlier in Russian in the journal Vestnik Evropy (Mechnikoff 1877). Fedorov read this article and praised it in a letter to Nikolai Peterson (Fedorov [1878] 1999). As Gacheva and Semenova point out, in this earlier essay Mechnikoff approached the “active evolutionary” model of the human. Mechnikoff emphasized opposition between his view and “Hellenistic fatalistic naturalism,” arguing that we cannot consider everything that is “primordial” and “natural” to be harmonious. Nevertheless, “harmony” can be restored through “artificial” means by humans themselves. “Consciousness and will,” according to Mechnikoff, “are for humans the factors of selection, and do not exist for other organisms,” such that “the main disharmony is to be eliminated by the human himself—the most active of all living beings” (Mechnikoff 1877; Gacheva and Semenova 2000, 247n3). 13. Cf. Leon Trotsky’s use of “disharmony,” cited in chapter 1, which condemned “the extreme anatomical and physiological disharmony” of the human body that resulted in the “wearing out of organs and tissues.” 14. I am quoting the Russian translations, as these are the versions my interlocutors would have read.

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to our “natural” age limit, Mechnikoff hypothesized, we will develop a sort of death instinct—a feeling of satisfaction with life, a special sentiment that helps us meet death without fear or regret. To truly experience this particular feeling, which would allow one to welcome death with a certain contentment, one needs to live long enough and without disease (disease, for Mechnikoff, is by definition pathological, including diseases of old age). To die before such an instinct is developed is similar to a prepubescent girl dying in childbirth, before she has experienced sexual enjoyment—the latter indicating ultimate disharmony.15 Curiously perhaps, as he was an avowed atheist, Mechnikoff quotes the Bible, referring to the protagonist of the Book of Job, who died at an advanced age “full of days” ( Job 42:17). Ideally, argued Mechnikoff, people should die only when they are “full of days,” and for that to be achieved, we must change our own nature, “transforming disharmony into harmony” ([1903] 1961, 245; [1907] 1988, 276). The question then becomes the most appropriate way to conceive of such a change. A true polymath, Mechnikoff answers by first considering what both “mystical” and “metaphysical” systems (that is, religion and philosophy) have to offer. In his Etiudy o prirode cheloveka (Studies in the nature of man)—a work touted as the “most valuable production since Darwin’s Origin of the Species”16—he concludes that these systems share the task of helping humans deal with death, then proceeds to an erudite consideration of a variety of religious and philosophical systems. While religion offers a belief in the afterlife or the promise of immortality, most secular philosophical schools have abandoned the faith in a future life and in personal immortality, postulating instead a kind of universal cosmic principle, in which individual minds should be engulfed ([1903] 1961, 161). Philosophy, Mechnikoff summarizes disapprovingly, merely counsels acceptance of the laws of nature and therefore acceptance of the inevitable annihilation of the self (ibid., 147, 165).

15. Mechnikoff cites a variety of medical and anthropological works documenting twelveto fourteen-year-old girls giving birth before having had their periods. He notes that such young women sometimes marry before coming to full sexual awareness and die in childbirth before having experienced sexual enjoyment. Humans dying without having experienced the death instinct, he says, are like such “unhappy women.” With the advance of science the number of such women has been reduced, and Mechnikoff implies that the same progress should also be made in regard to “premature” deaths (Mechnikoff [1903] 1961, 90, 231–32). 16. This quote comes from the blurb on the back cover of the English translation of Mechnikoff ’s later book, The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies ([1907] 1908).

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To be philosophical is to take things as they are, without undue protest, the watchword of all systems of philosophy is to bow to the inevitable, that is to say, to be resigned to the prospect of annihilation. (ibid., 165)17 In the end, Mechnikoff finds both mystical and philosophical systems of thought unsatisfactory.18 In an intriguing reversal of the traditional humanist position on the roles of science and religion, he contends that not only do religion and philosophy fail to explain death, they also fail in helping humans come to terms with it. Science, on the other hand, can do both. Mechnikoff argues that the aspiration of “men of science” must be to diminish human suffering— exemplified by the reality of disease, aging, and death—and that so far only the first of the three has been tackled. He ends the book with the words: If there can be formed an ideal able to unite men in a kind of religion of the future, this ideal must be founded on scientific principles. And if it be true, as has been asserted so often, that man can live by faith alone, the faith must be in the power of science. (ibid., 245) Over a century later, Skulachev—who holds Mechnikoff in high regard—is likewise committed to the view of the diseases of old age as pathological. In this context, the scientist’s ethical task should be to alleviate such suffering. Even if we have to die, he says, we do not have to be subjected to the long and humiliating process of aging. We can and should die happy, healthy, and free of diseases, like the naked mole rat. Featured on Skulachev’s neatly organized 17. Here and in the subsequent block quotation I rely on the English translation edited by P. Chalmers Mitchell (Mechnikoff 1903). All page numbers are from the Russian edition. 18. Having read Etiudy o prirode cheloveka (Studies in the nature of man), writer Lev Tolstoy opined indignantly in his diary: “Mechnikoff is thinking up how, by cutting your intestine and fiddling about with your arse, to make old age and death harmless. As if no one without him and before him had thought about this. It’s just that the penny has only now dropped with him that old age and death are not altogether agreeable. People have thought about this before you, Mr Mechnikoff, and not such infants of thought as you, but the greatest minds of the world, they have sought and found solutions to the question of how to make old age and death harmless, but they have approached the question in a clever way, not like you: they have looked for an answer not up the arse, but in the spiritual existence of man” (iskali otveta na vopros ne v zadnitse, a v dukhovnom sushchestve cheloveka) (cited in Lovell 2004, 310). See Lovell’s article detailing Tolstoy’s and Mechnikoff ’s views on death, their intellectual exchange, and the famous meeting of the two in 1909 (2004). The meeting in Iasnaia Poliana was covered widely in the press. As Wiles noted, “a great writer and a great scientist meet, and all liberal Russia hangs upon the event with bated breath. . . . And what did they talk about? Death” (1965b, 145).

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desk at his university office is a photo of himself at the Berlin zoo holding a naked mole rat, with the animal looking up at Skulachev and declaring in a speech bubble: “You are so old!” The naked mole rat, said Skulachev to me, does not experience diseases of old age—so when it dies, it dies happy. Why not try to do the same? This is where Mechnikoff and Skulachev, in rethinking humans and their relationship to death, start diverging significantly from the views of the immortalists. While both Skulachev and Mechnikoff consider aging unnecessary, they make no claims about overcoming death. Mechnikoff, in particular, would have found the idea of abolishing death quite absurd. Skulachev’s rhetoric, on the other hand, resembles earlier ontological rebellions, such as the Biocosmists’ objections to the “tyranny of time and space,” considered elsewhere in this book. Skulachev seems to agree. “Any tyranny is humiliating for man,” he says, “including the tyranny of the genome.” Yet, despite all the talk about remaking nature, he is very careful not to speak of immortality, and his position regarding death is unequivocal. Skulachev wants to “turn off ” the program for aging, so that we can live to what Mechnikoff considered to be our maximum life span. Death is an altogether different issue. Daring as they may be, neither Mechnikoff nor Skulachev appeared willing to encroach on death’s dark domain.19 It is precisely this unwillingness to extend the quest from conquering aging to conquering death that the immortalists find troubling. Some transhumanists continue to use Skulachev’s work and his stature in the scientific world to legitimate their ideas, but neither they nor the Cosmists consider Skulachev’s approach fully satisfactory. As Anastasia Gacheva said to me: In reality, Skulachev’s approach is cowardly. Just take our transhumanist guys—what a storm! What an onslaught! But Skulachev seems to

19. See Mykytyn 2009 for the analysis of the distinction between anti-aging and anti-death ideas in the United States. Interestingly, she suggests that most anti-life-extension advocates in the United States ascribe abolishing death as one of the anti-aging proponents’ goals. In reality, Mykytyn points out, although immortalist voices are sometimes the loudest, most antiaging proponents conceptualize their ideas in terms of aging as a source of pain and suffering, and not in terms of remaking life and death by achieving immortality. The American case is complicated by the fact that many biogerontologists do not recognize “anti-aging medicine” as legitimate and are having to constantly police the boundaries of the discipline. They particularly object to the legitimacy of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), the largest nonprofit organization promoting “anti-aging medicine” with the authority to certify physicians ( Juengst et al. 2003).

Figure 3.4. V. P. Skulachev at his office at MGU. The speech bubble on the photo with the naked mole rat says: “You are so old!” Moscow, December 2015. Photos by the author.

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think—and I asked him about this at one of his lectures—that death cannot be conquered. That we can only conquer aging. Which just means a postponed, staved-off death [otsrochennaia smert’]. . . . In this, he is saying exactly what Mechnikoff used to say. Gacheva went on to recall some of Mechnikoff ’s key claims in his Etiudy optimizma (Optimistic essays), adding that before his death he found himself waiting for his own death instinct to kick in. But it didn’t come. He desperately wanted to go on living. During the last three years of his life (1913–16), Mechnikoff, ever the scientist, made himself the subject of his own experiments. In particular, he wanted to test his theory about the “death instinct” coming on as one approached the end. The medicophilosophical diary he kept during these years is a curious blend of meticulous observations of specific processes taking place in Mechnikoff ’s ailing body correlated with the extremely mixed emotions he was having about death. Although his statements often contradict each other, I would paraphrase Gacheva’s take. Rather than desperately wanting to continue living, I would say Mechnikoff was desperately waiting for the death instinct to arrive. Two months before his death, on his seventy-first birthday, Mechnikoff wrote: “I cannot say for sure what I feel. On the one hand, I would like to get better, but on the other, I don’t see the point in going on living. My illness didn’t cause me to fear death, but I am lacking the sense of enjoying life.” He proceeded to say that if he did have any desire to get better, it was for “practical reasons”: his finances had been seriously affected by the war, and he worried whether his wife would be able to continue to live comfortably after his passing (Mechnikoff 1946, 178). “Just like Mechnikoff,” Gacheva continued her reflections, Skulachev is flirting a bit with our contemporary world, the world which accepts finitude. In this world, death is natural [estestvenna]. For all our disagreements with the transhumanists, what we [Fedorovians] consider their strongest suit is that death for them is anti-natural. Fedorov and the Cosmists thought the same. This, of course, involves a certain defiance, a challenge [vyzov]. On the one hand, it is a challenge to our image of the world and of the human. On the other, their attitude demonstrated that the immortal human is something like a natural result of further evolution. Recall that the Cosmists had this idea of active evolution, the idea of ascending development [voskhodiashchee razvitie]: the further development of the spirit and of consciousness inside matter [v lone materii], where matter is what has to be overcome and transformed.

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The key idea for the Cosmists, as Gacheva went on to point out, is the “antientropic” nature of life, of labor, and of creativity. For them, death is entropy, and from this comes the idea of the human as a warrior figure, fighting against chaos, against entropy, and against death. Fedorov and the Cosmists envisioned the overcoming of death as the primary ontological and existential (bytiinaia) task to be performed by humanity. Of the many differences between the visions put forward by contemporary transhumanists and the ideas we associate with Fedorov, she was at pains to note specifically that Fedorov understood the overcoming of death as a very long process, related not only to the transformation of biology but also to the attainment of a higher moral stage. “This is where he is deeper than transhumanists,” in Gacheva’s words. He says it would be very gradual, it’s not going to happen tomorrow. Death, he says, and life after death [posmertnoe sushchestvovanie] should be topics that are studied. Man will evolve, uplift himself: God will act through him. That’s why Fedorov is so interested in pedagogy. He offers a new type of family, a new type of city—actually he proposes an entire civilization, which changes itself, which chooses to transform itself. There’s a new ethical economics, a new politics. Humanity should unite, but it will be a gradual process. And of course science will be working right alongside. Although Fedorov doesn’t want any steps to be skipped, the vision informing his thinking is most radical. And who knows, perhaps Skulachev—and I actually still think what he does is remarkable—agrees about not wanting to hop over stages. Maybe to himself he thinks man will eventually become immortal, but he doesn’t say it in public. He is a scientist, after all. Anya Bernstein: So he decouples death and aging . . . Anastasia Gacheva: Exactly. But Skulachev nonetheless does think it is our ethical duty to fight aging. In other words, we need to do what we can. Yes, humans are mortal, but it is in our hands to make this tragedy less painful by improving the quality of life.20 Gacheva went on to say that despite seeing the immortalist mission—both its Cosmist and transhumanist versions—as more ontologically radical, she wholeheartedly supports the biogerontological fight against aging (bor’ba so stareniem). This fight is important, she explained, because of the “colossal gap between our intellectual, spiritual, and creative potential and the growing decrepitude [vetshanie] of the body.” If it is clear for immortalists that 20. Anastasia Gacheva, interview by the author, July 2015.

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the purpose of aging research should ideally be nothing less than the radical remaking of the species, precisely what’s at stake in studying aging sparks heated debate among the biogerontologists.

The Future of Aging: Four Scenarios These debates and other disagreements dividing the biogerontologists, according to a proposal by bioethicist Eric Juengst and colleagues, can be broadly summarized in terms of four conceivable outcomes of research: prolonged senescence, compressed morbidity, decelerated aging, and arrested aging ( Juengst et al. 2003). Prolonged senescence refers to a hypothetical outcome, in which old people’s lives are prolonged without the debilitating symptoms of old age having been cured. Some worry that this is the situation in which we already find ourselves at present, with Juengst noting that though this option gets no support from biogerontologists, it often serves as a “foil for the other three.” A literary example of the prolonged senescence scenario is the struldbrugs from Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels. They are people who don’t die but do continue aging while being plagued by one horrible disease after the other (Swift [1726] 1997). This same scenario underlies a common argument in the anti-life-extension camp, where it appears in claims that life extension as such—immortality without eternal youth—is generally not such a great idea. The argument often serves as a straw man, and I have yet to encounter a researcher on aging or a longevity activist who would suggest that “prolonged senescence” is a desirable outcome. The other three scenarios more accurately summarize current biogerontological imaginaries. Compressed morbidity describes a situation in which people live long lives without suffering chronic diseases, reaching the limits of the human life span—which some aging researchers place at about 120 (the longest recorded life span today is 122)—and then die rather quickly. Applying the classification retroactively, Mechnikoff could be considered a compressed morbidity advocate, since in his vision people live long enough to reach their potential and then die peacefully without debilitating chronic diseases. The next scenario, decelerated aging, refers to the potential outcome from “slowing down the clock” and consequently involves much higher stakes, as well as associated controversy. In this case, people pass through the regular stages of aging but at a much slower pace, so that, say, ninety-year-olds are routinely as healthy as fifty-year-olds today. This would be to extend the human life span by about 40 percent, with the mean age at death 112 and the occasional individual living to 140 (Miller cited in Juengst et al. 2003).

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Finally, arrested aging, the most futuristic and radical of the four scenarios, rests on the conviction that current science may be on the verge of the leap into complete control over the processes of growing older. Lacking, however, is any agreement as to how the leap will actually be achieved. Some believe in scenarios in which longer life spans and decelerated aging result in the indefinite postponement of aging, such that eventually, with the development of regenerative medicine and biotechnologies, it would lead to radical longevity. The proponents of arrested aging concede the difference between their current vision and true immortality, as natural death could still occur from accidents ( Juengst et al. 2003, 24–28). Arrested aging is a minority goal. The most prominent proponent on the international scene is the British scientist Aubrey de Grey, a former Cambridge University software-engineer-turned-biologist and now a famous, although controversial, biogerontologist. He calls arrested aging “engineered negligible senescence,” returning us to Professor Skulachev and the naked rat mole, as well as the goal of doing away with the correlation between age and functional decline. De Grey, who has long had the status of a guru and prophet in transhumanist circles, is known for his scandalous reputation as a scientific dissident and his legendary bushy beard descending nearly to his navel. Espousing the ethical refusal of death with the passion of a true Fedorovian, de Grey is the coiner of the phrase “Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence [SENS],” now the name of a California-based nonprofit, where he holds the position of chief science officer. De Grey is cofounder of the organization, having left his post at Cambridge to pursue his research. He now claims to have identified seven specific types of molecular and cellular damage leading to unnecessary aging and death, and SENS is his program of action. The foundation is active in developing techniques and new research areas, where progress should lead to anti-aging therapies. Among the many ways SENS operates as a bona fide research institution, it has continued to host frequent academic conferences since publishing its initial proceedings in 2003.21 Yet de Grey’s research remains extremely controversial in the academic biogerontological community. No doubt in response to this resistance to his ideas, in July 2005 de Grey, together with the MIT Technology Review, offered a $20,000 prize to anyone able to prove that SENS is biologically impossible. Open to any molecular biologist with a PhD, the 21. The first conference was held in 2003, with the proceedings published in a special volume of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences titled “Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence: Why Genuine Control of Aging May Be Foreseeable” (de Grey 2004).

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contest drew five submissions, but in the end the prize was not awarded. The judges determined that SENS was subject to neither proof nor disproof, as it “occupies a middle ground of yet-to-be-tested ideas” (Pontin 2005, 2006). It has been noted independently of the contest by other scientists that “each one of the specific proposals that comprise the SENS agenda is, at our present stage of ignorance, exceptionally optimistic” (Warner et al. 2005). Despite the criticism, de Grey maintains an active public profile, regularly drawing attention in the media for sensational claims, such as the statement that the world’s first 1,000-year-old person is already alive today (Corbyn 2015). Apparently not entirely convinced that this lucky individual is himself, de Grey has devised his own plan B, having signed a cryonics contract with the American company Alcor to have himself cryopreserved for future reanimation should he happen to die. In the meantime, the de Grey scenario of arrested aging has provided major inspiration for Russian transhumanists and biogerontologists alike. Activists from the International Longevity Alliance, with whom the chapter opened, have been instrumental in popularizing the term “negligible senescence” (prenebrezhimoe starenie) in Russia, treating it as a key focus, alongside the slogan “aging is a curable disease.” Aubrey de Grey himself has paid visits to Russia a few times since 2009, declaring it “a rare example of a country where he does not need to convince anyone that aging is a disease”—as quoted by Skulachev, who added with a chuckle, “And then someone wrote online: ‘Thanks to Skulachev!’ ”

Is Aging a Disease? The following conflict of interest statement penned by two Russian biologists of aging appeared in a recent editorial devoted to the discussion of whether aging should be considered a disease: “Alexander Zhavoronkov (AZ) and Alexei Moskalev (AM) are affiliated with research-oriented companies but declare no financial interest in this study. AZ and AM declare that presently they are terminally ill with aging” (Zhavoronkov and Moskalev 2016).22 Drawing on an earlier article in the same journal penned by their British colleague, biogerontologist David Gems, declaring that we “must draw aside the rosy veil 22. Genetics of Aging is a section of the online open-access Frontiers platform, which claims to be the “ultimate Open Science platform.” See http://home.frontiersin.org/about/about -frontiers.

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of tradition and face aging for what it is, and in all its horror: the greatest disease of them all,” Zhavoronkov and Moskalev propose reconsidering the way we conceptualize aging (Gems 2015; Zhavoronkov and Moskalev 2016). Aging, as they argue along with Gems, is treated in the dominant framework as “normal,” and disease is treated as “abnormal,” which inhibits the development of anti-aging treatments. But as historian of science Georges Canguilhem demonstrated long ago, “normal” and “pathological” are not objective scientific concepts. They are always socially and historically constituted ([1966] 1989). And nowhere is the issue of the norm being pushed further than in the science of aging, with some maintaining that aging and even death have become unnecessary. No longer just a catchy slogan for transhumanists, the matter of whether aging should be considered a disease has become a contentious one in the biogerontological community worldwide. The orthodox view understands aging as “the normal biological processes that are collectively the single greatest risk factor for the pathologies of old age,” in the words of Leonard Hayflick, a distinguished American anatomist, past president of the Gerontological Society of America, and a founding member of the council of the National Institute of Aging (Hayflick cited in Juengst et al. 2003, 22). In a piece tellingly titled “Anarchy in Gerontological Terminology,” Hayflick decries the lack of standardized definitions for even such basic terms as “aging” and “longevity,” suggesting that this anarchy contributes to the erroneous concept of aging as a disease (2002). “Aging is not a disease,” says Hayflick, “so the concept of seeking a cure for it is tantamount to seeking a cure for embryogenesis or child or adult development.” The idea that aging requires treatment, he points out, is based on the belief that it is something undesirable (2001, 20–21). Yet the stakes for proponents of life extension are becoming increasingly pragmatic rather than semantic. Regarding aging as normal and not pathological locates attempts to treat it in the contentious realm of optional “enhancements,” as opposed to necessary “treatment” ( Juengst et al. 2003; see also Hogle 2005 for an anthropological take on the notion of “enhancement”). If aging is not seen as pathological, life-extension advocates argue, then antiaging medicine will remain in the same class as nutritional supplements, which aren’t subject to regulation but also don’t usually make it into clinical trials. The latter point is stressed in particular by those scientists—both in Russia and abroad—who want to label aging a disease. Transhumanist activists passionately defend this view, pushing for the immediate start of human clinical trials of drugs that have been shown to extend life in laboratory animals.

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Transhumanists, Fedorovians, and academic scientists have very different notions of the human condition and different solutions for the perpetual Russian question, “What is to be done?”23 But one sentiment they share is that aging poses an ethical problem. For Fedorovians, as well as for transhumanists, both religious and secular, death is both unnatural and morally unacceptable—a sentiment they extend to aging as well. As the Biocosmists argued in the 1920s, death is “logically absurd, ethically impermissible, and aesthetically ugly” (Sviatogor 1922a). Even the most radical academic scientists, however, such as Skulachev, willingly or unwillingly decouple aging from death, focusing their rhetoric on increasing healthy life spans. While Skulachev’s theory of “programmed aging” remains a minority view in biogerontology, the idea of extending healthy life spans—or health spans, the period in which one is free from serious disease—is considered a fully realistic goal by many of his international colleagues. “Your life depends on two people,” said Mikhail Batin to a crowd in St. Petersburg. We met Batin in chapter 1, as the director of the Moscow-based Science for Life Extension Foundation. “The first person is yourself. The second person is Brian Kennedy.” Kennedy is an American biologist trained at MIT. In July 2015, I joined Batin and his collaborators on a trip to St. Petersburg to attend a double lecture on life extension, with the first talk by Batin himself and the second by Kennedy. CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, a California-based private research institute, Kennedy cited practical arguments for increasing healthy life spans. For example, if age-related diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s were stopped, people could work longer, diminishing the burden on the social welfare system.24 In recent years Kennedy has established close ties with Russian transhumanists, visiting Russia on a regular basis. My interlocutors—who like to point to prominent Russian émigrés in the American biogerontological scene to reinforce the idea that life extension is essentially a “Russian topic”—grant Kennedy the status of honorary fellow countryman. “Although he’s a born and bred American,” jokes Batin, 23. “What Is to Be Done?” (Chto delat’?) is the title of a political pamphlet written in 1901 by Vladimir Lenin, who borrowed the title from the 1863 novel by Nikolai Chernyshevskii. 24. Public lecture by Brian Kennedy, St. Petersburg, July 12, 2015, organized by Moscow and St. Petersburg transhumanists and hosted by the local discussion club Grain of Salt (Shchepotka soli). Besides public education, Kennedy’s trips to Russia also involve fundraising. On this occasion I attended the meeting with a well-known Russian entrepreneur and philanthropist who is interested in aging research. Kennedy’s bio can be found here: http:// www.buckinstitute.org/BrianKennedy.

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“he read twelve of Nabokov’s works. I didn’t even know there were so many. That should count for something!” Although I am not sure how warranted this claim is, it demonstrates the transhumanists’ awareness of their genealogy, as well as shared mythology, which partakes in what Slavic studies scholar Irene Masing-Delic called “one of the most influential myth-making concepts” in Russian culture: that of “abolishing death” (1992, cited from the book jacket). What they are referring to is the presence of several prominent researchers in the relatively small field of the biology of aging in the United States who are indeed from the former Soviet Union. These include Mikhail Blagosklonnyi at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York, Vadim Gladyshev of the Gladyshev Lab at Harvard University, and Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov of the Gorbunova Lab at the University of Rochester. (Gladyshev and Gorbunova are part of the even smaller subset of aging researchers studying naked mole rats.) As an extension of these ties, in 2014 a former vice president of Batin’s foundation, Maria Konovalenko, moved to California to pursue a PhD under Kennedy’s supervision, in the nation’s first formal graduate program in the biology of aging, offered jointly by Buck and the University of South California. While the official mission of Kennedy’s Buck Institute—“increasing the healthy years of life”—corresponds to Skulachev’s overarching goal, compared to what we hear from the Moscow professor, Kennedy’s rhetoric is much more down-to-earth. You will not hear him calling for our liberation and emancipation from the genome. Yet there remains a certain urgency and a striving to reduce suffering that on the whole characterizes the field’s self-perception: The stakes have never been higher. While it’s true that people are living longer, those “extra” years are often marked by disability and pain. In addition to personal hardship, there is also a cost to society. The financial burden of treating the chronic diseases of aging is expected to rise steadily as Baby Boomers get older. There is an urgency to our mission. (Buck Institute for Research on Aging, n.d.) The key concept here is “healthy aging,” indicating the desirability of seniors staying active and enjoying good quality of life. “You are the key player in your own aging process!” says the Healthy Aging tab on the Buck Institute website, which links to a feed with the latest articles on the subject (Buck Institute for Research on Aging, n.d.). Yet, despite Kennedy’s popularity, it is precisely this concept of “healthy aging” that recently became controversial in both Russian

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and international circles, with some scientists and transhumanists disputing that there could even be such a thing. As diverse as their views on death might be, where Mechnikoff, Fedorov, some contemporary biogerontologists, and longevity activists all agree is in viewing aging as most definitely a moral problem that must be eliminated as a matter of improving the human condition. It is striking that the way to improve this situation might appear to be to pathologize aging—by declaring aging a disease that can and must be treated. In such a framework, aging is ethicalized and medicalized at the same time. “You’ve probably heard the buzzword that is becoming more and more popular: healthy aging,” said Elena Milova, one of the leaders of the International Longevity Alliance. Elena is in her mid-thirties. She shrugged her shoulders: “What does this phrase even mean?” Earlier that day, Elena had euthanized and cryonized her cat with KrioRus, so she was both sad and uplifted during our meeting. “How,” she asked indignantly, “can a process that results in an enormous number of health problems and pathologies be called ‘healthy’?” Of course, policymakers using the phrase are trying to protect old people from discrimination. This is a worthy goal, but in our opinion it is not the right approach. One important advantage older people have over younger ones is their tremendous life experience, social, professional, and personal. It takes at least thirty years to learn something well nowadays. This is just the minimum—if people want to reach a higher level, they need to continue to learn even longer. In this sense, older people are true treasure troves of wisdom. And I always try to emphasize this point when we meet with lawmakers. But! In the end we are dealing with their “wrappings” [bodies]. Endurance, efficiency, reaction speed, even the ability to be in the workplace—this is where we have real grounds for discriminating, because, unfortunately, due to their multiple health problems, [older people] are simply not competitive in the workplace. Elena was eager to offer reassurances that she certainly understood the interest in saying that old people are valuable. “Of course they are, this goes without saying, this is just a basic human rights issue.” But let’s be honest and not forget exactly what is most valuable about them: experience. Yet as soon as people gain enough experience, we run up against the obstacle of their bodies starting to fall apart. Wouldn’t it be

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better to work toward curing their [and everyone’s] aging and prevent discrimination this way, rather than use such artificially constructed politically correct terms like “healthy aging”?25 Medicalizing aging for these activists has salutary effects both psychologically and in purely pragmatic terms. In their view, terms like “healthy aging” obscure not only the personal tragedy but also the social costs involved in aging and death. From the transhumanist point of view it is irrational to have people training for an entire lifetime in how to do something, only to die shortly after acquiring the knowledge and expertise needed to make their greatest contribution. If geniuses like Einstein only lived longer, they like to say, we would be much further advanced as a civilization, complementing the Cosmists’ belief that moral progress is unreachable with such a short life span.26 Moreover, once something is labeled a disease, it becomes possible for scientists and doctors to organize clinical trials and optimize the search for treatments. Both transhumanist and academic biogerontologists share a frustration with the supplements industry. On the one hand, the current setup allows unregulated and potentially harmful substances into the market, and, on the other, it discredits what they consider genuine scientific efforts to advance longevity research. Biogerontologists put great effort into doing boundary work by distinguishing themselves from the commercial anti-aging industry, which from their point of view is prone to exaggerating scientific discoveries, as in claiming that recipes for longevity have already been found in anti-aging fads, such as antioxidant creams, green tea, or resveratrol in red wine. Exploring the biomedicalization of aging in the United States, anthropologist Sharon Kaufman and colleagues note the way developments in health care have transformed “the technological imperative into a moral one,” with expressions of love and care these days increasingly tied to lifeextending medical interventions. With the availability of procedures such as kidney transplants, a full range of cardiac treatments, dialysis, and other lifeextending technologies, “non-intervention” at the end of life becomes “almost unthinkable” (Kaufman, Shim, and Russ 2004). In the Russian life-extension community, this reasoning is reversed. With a rich tradition of ethical reasoning for extending life, from Fedorov through the Soviet-era fascination with 25. Elena Milova, interview by the author, July 2015. 26. By “living longer,” transhumanists imply that humans would find cures to the aging brain, so that scientists can contribute past what is considered today to be their “prime.”

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immortality to post- Soviet biogerontological research, the moral imperative has been there all along in Russia, with the result that life extension and the attendant politics of hope have become important drivers of the scientific and technological developments. Paraphrasing Kaufman, in Russia it is not so much that the technological imperative has been transformed into a moral one but the opposite. The moral imperative has been transformed into a technological one. A good example of this is a Russian biomedical start-up in the business of developing age-delaying drugs. In the following section I provide an ethnography of the enterprise, paying particular attention to the interpenetration of science, business, and longevity activism, alongside the attendant politics of hope.

Science, Business, and Hope “We didn’t want to just screen for new drugs. We wanted to do something greater. But we didn’t know what it was,” says Maxim Kholin, one the cofounders of the Moscow-based drug discovery start-up called Gero.27 Kholin is an attorney who is partnered in the endeavor with Petr Fedichev, a successful academic physicist with a professorship at an Austrian university, who left his secure but ultimately unexciting position to help start the new company. The goals were ambitious from the start. The prospect of merely working to develop new drugs for challenging diseases was not appealing. The partners joked about how that would just be doing “traditional” medicine, where “traditional” refers to drugs for diseases like cancer and HIV—and where in the best case the patient survives to go on to die of something else. Their alternative idea? To redefine and figure out how to defeat aging itself. I asked Kholin about how they came up with the idea to create a start-up to look for the “cure” for aging. “We first chose anti-aging,” he replied, “because it sounded both ambitious and promising.” He had an itch to do something great but he didn’t know what it could be. Then he met Professor Skulachev. It was a true shake-up for me. I learned about the naked mole rats who do not age and about tiny freshwater hydras who might be truly immortal.28 27. Maxim Kholin, interview by the author, March 2015. The founders originally called the firm Quantum Pharmaceuticals, changing the name to Gero in November 2015. 28. Maxim refers to a tiny freshwater animal (phylum Cnidaria, class Hydrozoa), which has long been studied by biologists of aging for its regenerative capacity. Hydras might be

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But most importantly, I took this topic personally. . . . All of a sudden I felt deeply [prochuvstvoval] that my own health and the health of my loved ones—my mother, father, and grandfather—partially depends on my actions. . . . What I wanted in life before—a business that would allow me to be prosperous and to have an interesting job—was no longer sufficient. I realized that I needed to survive, and that I wanted my family to survive and that it depends on me. If Gero doesn’t succeed in time to be of benefit to himself or his family, then at least it will have speeded things up for others, as Kholin thinks of it. For him, the key point is getting society and the medical community to first recognize aging as a global problem and then understand it as a disease. He leaves the science to Fedichev, playing the role in the company of general administrator, the organizer of the financing, and PR person. But he got to work on the educational part immediately. He wrote entries for Russian-language Wikipedia pages, citing as one of his main achievements that he managed to get aging included in the “Global Problems” entry. And, indeed, last time I checked, aging was listed first in a long list of key worldwide problems, along with global warming, growing North- South inequality, terrorism, diminishing natural resources, and others (Global’nye problemy, n.d.). The intersection of business, academic science, and activism represented by Gero is a relatively new phenomenon in Russia, which only became possible after the collapse of socialism. We have already met entrepreneur and philanthropist Mikhail Batin, whose Science for Life Extension foundation, funded by his private money, sponsored research projects that he sees as advancing the transhumanist cause. One of them, for example, involved the hiring in 2010 of the controversial Italian scientist Paolo Macchiarini, working in the field of regenerative medicine, who had some success creating artificial tracheas in the lab by seeding a synthetic trachea-shaped scaffold with a patient’s stem cells and implanting them in several patients in Russia.29 And Skulachev once had immortal, because they are capable of replacing all aged cells, including nerve cells, by a steady supply of stem cells (Masoro and Austad 2011, 105–6). 29. Most recently, Macchiarini, a former professor of regenerative medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, became known as the subject of an ethical inquiry into research misconduct. It was claimed that his extremely risky operations, which were supposed to be performed only on terminally ill people, were performed on people who were not in lifethreatening circumstances. Most of the patients died, according to Macchiarini, though not of causes related to the surgery. The investigation committee also claimed that he misrepresented

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funding from the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Other biotech start-ups devoted to aging, similar to Gero, have also sprung up in the last few years. While Kholin was busy popularizing the idea that aging should be considered a “problem,” Gero’s lead scientist Petr Fedichev set to work proving that aging is a disease. A good summary of his work is his recent TEDx talk, sponsored by the Skolkovo Foundation, the main Russian state innovation agency. Titled tellingly “Aging Is a Curable Disease,” the talk began by noting the direct correlation between age and the probability of a person dying, with the risk scaling exponentially as we get older. He proceeded to show a graph—calling it “the most important graph in medical sciences”—to help the audience visualize the probability of people coming down with age-related diseases. Displaying probability curves of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, and others, the graph represents the correlation of disease probability and age. For the many problems listed, said Fedichev, there’s but a single cause behind all of them: aging. Also on Fedichev’s graph was an additional curve representing the probability of dying from an accident, which was much flatter than the others. “But even this,” Fedichev emphasized, “increases with age,” as we become more prone to accidents when we get older. “If we can cure aging,” Fedichev declared, “we can make all these graphs horizontal” (TEDx Talks 2013). Like Skulachev, Fedichev thinks the focus for making research progress belongs on animals showing “negligible senescence,” those for which the probability of dying “does not increase with age.”30 Enter the unlikely charismatic species of hope once again: the naked mole rat. “If you look at yourself in the mirror, you can more or less tell your age,” Fedichev said. “But if you look at naked mole rats, you cannot tell their age.” Noting that at least ten examples of animals with negligible senescence have now been listed in a dedicated aging database covering multiple species—not only mammals—Fedichev drew the sensible conclusion that what’s possible for other animals must be possible for humans too.31 He went on to cite examples of animals for which there has the success of his prosthetic grafts. On February 4, 2016, the Karolinska Institute announced that it would not renew his contract when it ended in November 2016 (Cyranoski 2016). Russian science writer Elena Kokurina, vice president of Batin’s Science for Life Extension Foundation, disagreed with these allegations. She chronicled Macchiarini’s work in Russia in her book, which she refers to as a “documentary novel,” titled Megagrant (Kokurina 2015). 30. See a recent article published by the research team of which Fedichev was a part (Kogan et al. 2015). 31. See the Animal Aging and Longevity Database: http://genomics.senescence.info/species.

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Deaths per 100,000 per year

100,000 10,000 1,000

Heart disease Accidents

100

Stroke

10

Cancer

Diabetes

Pneumonia

1 Kidney disease 0

Emphysema

Alzheimer’s 15–24

25–34

35–44

45–54

55–64

65–74

75–84

85+

Age group Figure 3.5. Number of deaths from indicated diseases (or accidents) per year per 100,000 people by age group. Courtesy of Vadim Gladyshev.

been some success in increasing life spans in the laboratory, among the most famous, the roundworm C. elegans (Kenyon et al. 1993) and mice (Bartke et al. 2001), but also yeast (Kaeberlein et al. 2004) and fruit flies (Tower 2000). Due to the urgency of this research and its relevance to humans, Fedichev announced with satisfaction, a special prize has been established for anyone who can make a mouse live “as long as a whale.”32 Like Aubrey de Grey, Fedichev positions himself not as a biologist but as an engineer. And not mentioned in his TEDx talk is the fact that biologists don’t all agree that the naked mole rat doesn’t age. He told me himself during one of our meetings about the disagreement among biologists, with some thinking 32. Fedichev was referring to the so-called Methuselah Mouse Prize (Mprize), established in 2003 by a nonprofit organization called the Methuselah Foundation that is devoted to life extension. Methuselah refers to the long-lived patriarch of the Hebrew Bible who is credited with living 969 years (Gen. 5:27). According to the foundation website, the Mprize was created to accelerate the development of life-extension therapies. It consists of two cash prizes: “One to the research team that broke the world record for the oldest-ever mouse; and one to the team that developed the most successful late-onset rejuvenation strategy.” As of May 2016, more than $1.4 million had been made available for research by the foundation (Methuselah Foundation, n.d.). Aubrey de Grey is one of the founders and was instrumental in establishing the Mprize.

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that the naked mole rat ages slowly, which is not the same as not aging at all. “But for us it’s just semantics,” Fedichev said. “It simply doesn’t matter.” Even if it does age slowly, it is already a close enough model for us. . . . We are engineers: if something doesn’t exist, we can create it. Or not create it. We can take commercial risks. After all, there were no animals going into space until the Soviet Union did it [with dogs].33 At the TEDx talk, Fedichev chose not to go into these details because he wanted to focus attention on the need for aging to be biomedicalized. “Most clinical trials for drugs that target specific age-related diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, ultimately failed,” Fedichev asserted. That is why we believe we need to attack aging rather than specific agerelated diseases and move from developing drugs for specific diseases to developing drugs against aging as such. Then we can delay or postpone aging, and in the meantime develop medicines to do away with it forever. To reach this goal, Fedichev said, we need to identify specific genes, gene networks, and even molecules capable of modulating the actions of specific genes. Fedichev called the quest to find the cure for aging a “race,” similar to the space race. The fight against aging will necessarily involve a massive multidisciplinary initiative. Aging needs to be recognized as a disease, so we can test drugs that fight it, whereas the current practice allows one to test drugs only against specific diseases, like diabetes, but not for aging itself. Public education will be necessary, as society will have to accept that there is no such thing as “healthy aging.” Doctors will have to change the way they treat us, learning how to monitor a different set of biological signals. Governments will have to implement reforms—if people live longer and can work longer, pension systems will need to be reformed. “Don’t think of life as just being ‘fun,’ ” Fedichev proclaimed by way of conclusion. “Prepare to work indefinitely on this common goal.” Extending human abilities, he declared, will give us the ability to colonize other planets and perhaps even live in space. Although there was no mention of Fedorov, Fedichev’s program emerges as quite Fedorovian in this echo of the “common cause.” And not only was there a linkage between life extension and space exploration but also the idea that such a common goal would unite humanity, touching on every aspect of life. 33. Petr Fedichev, interview by the author, April 2015.

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An obvious question at that point is what a scientist like Fedichev might think of transhumanism. I was first introduced to him by Batin, with the words, “Please meet the scientist who is also a transhumanist.” It was at one of several gatherings where I sat down with Batin and his friends from Gero for long talks about life, death, aging, and their personal aspirations. Batin, ever the bon vivant with a love for good food and lively discussion, sometimes added a few extra guests into the mix, always covering the bill. Often I found myself trying to answer as many questions as I asked, so these meetings felt more like debates than traditional interviews, and participants were called to reflect on their own motivations. I played the role of token cultural anthropologist when our discussion revolved, as it often did, around “nature versus nurture,” wherein I diligently fended off what seemed to me to be extreme reductionism and biologism. “I think transhumanism is a very Russian topic,” Fedichev said to me when we finally got around to the specific question. He listed a number of prominent contemporary Russian-speaking biologists of aging working abroad, mostly in the United States. He attributed their fascination with the issues of aging not to a common culture but to a common biology: I think that there might be some biological correlation, like a transhumanist “gene.” Or maybe, for those of us who can never forget about death, something is wrong with our wiring. Maybe there is a glitch in our brains. People learn about death as kids, it is usually a shock, but then they make peace with it somehow. How is it that so many people forget the traumatic moment when they are first told about death? We, on the contrary, cannot forget it. I still remember the day when I was told about death, I remember every detail of the setting and even what the room looked like. “Yes, yes, I remember this moment, too,” Kholin interjected. “I was six years old when my father told me about death. I remember I just collapsed to the floor in the hallway and started bawling. I was literally howling [vyl].” “You see,” Fedichev turned to me, “we never really discussed this, but both of us turn out to be susceptible. I’m sure there’s a biological correlation to this, and that fear of death can be cured.” But, he quickly added, “we are probably not ‘real’ transhumanists, like Misha [Batin], who believes that the cure for aging will not be produced commercially.” For Fedichev the tremendous commercial potential in the prospect of controlling aging is part of what attracted him to it in the first place. He delved into what he suggested was a darker side to this research, venturing into mild conspirology. Once humans learn to

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control aging, he said, they can use these mechanisms not only to extend lives but also to shorten them.34 “If breeding fast-growing but short-lived humans— soldiers, for example—is beneficial to global capitalism, this is what is going to happen.” “No, no,” protested Batin. “Not if I’m in charge! That’s some kind of economic-rational transhumanism. But I represent ‘ethical’ transhumanism— I want everyone to have a chance for immortality.” Then adding in another echo of Fedorov and the Biocosmists, “Even those who have already died.” Debates such as these illustrate, on the one hand, the degree to which the worlds of science, business, and longevity activism have interpenetrated and, on the other, the politics of hope that often underlies these processes. Transhumanists draw on the latest scientific research to legitimate their ideas, while biologists of aging generally do not mind their otherwise somewhat obscure field getting more exposure (provided they don’t distort the basic facts, so a certain degree of boundary work is being done nonetheless). An academic biogerontologist I interviewed, while highly skeptical of the idea of unlimited life extension, considers transhumanists well-intentioned and generally helpful as cheerleaders for the discipline: “They do oversimplify many things, but they are helping to raise the profile of our research, and many of them are surprisingly knowledgeable.”35 The fact that some academic scientists, not only in Russia but also in the United States, agree on the importance of regarding aging as a disease inspires many transhumanists, convincing them they are on the right path. At the midpoint of my field research for this project, in June 2015, both the transhumanist and biogerontological communities in Russia were eagerly following meetings then taking place between U.S.-based aging researchers and regulators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The goal was to convince the FDA to allow clinical trials for potential age-delaying drugs. Nir Barzilai, physician at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, was quoted in an article in Nature, saying that current treatments of age-related diseases merely 34. Precisely such a scenario was envisioned by the Soviet science fiction writer and advocate for life extension Georgii Gurevich (1917–98) in his 1965 novel My iz solnechnoi sistemy (We are from the solar system). In the novel, future humanity has been plagued suddenly by an infectious disease called gerontit. Those infected with the disease age and die within days, experiencing a temporary burst of giddiness and uplifted spirits just before death. Eventually scientists found a cure and used the knowledge gained in the struggle against gerontit to regulate aging and extend life (Gurevich 1965; see also Bernstein, n.d.a). 35. Interview by the author, 2015.

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“exchange one disease for another. . . . What we want to show is that if we delay aging, that’s the best way to delay disease.” As journalist Erika Check Hayden writes in Nature: Barzilai and his colleagues eschew claims of a quest for immortality, because they think that such assertions have led to a perception that the field is frivolous and irresponsible. “The perception is that we are all looking for a fountain of youth,” says Stephanie Lederman, executive director of the American Federation for Aging Research in New York. “We want to avoid that; what we’re trying to do is increase health span, not look for eternal life.” (Hayden 2015, 265) Barzilai’s views thus appear to fall under a moderate version of the compressedmorbidity rubric, or at most under decelerated aging rather than the more radical arrested-aging scenario. His project is called Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME. Metformin is a medication widely used to treat type 2 diabetes, with some researchers reporting findings of general age-delaying properties as well. People taking it for diabetes appear less likely to develop cancer, for example. Small doses of metformin have also been shown to extend life in mice (Martin-Montalvo et al. 2013). Other candidates that might be considered for FDA approval exist as well, including a drug called rapamycin,36 which has been shown effective in extending life in certain mice (clinical trials with elderly dogs are currently underway at the University of Washington). A major reason behind the push for human clinical trials for metformin in particular, however, is that it is already being safely used in humans (Hayden 2015). The plan for the trials is to enroll people between the ages of seventy and eighty with a history of common age-related diseases, such as cancer, stroke, and heart disease. For five years, half will be taking a placebo and the other half metformin. The research goal is to measure how long it takes both groups to develop additional age-related conditions. If it takes longer for the people who 36. Rapamycin is a compound produced by bacteria discovered in the 1960s on Easter Island and named in tribute to the island’s indigenous name: Rapa Nui. Now an FDA-approved drug, it is given as an immune suppressant to transplant patients, while its ability to stop cells from dividing makes it a promising drug for anti-cancer research. Rapamycin works by blocking a single protein, an enzyme called TOR (Target of Rapamycin), a treatment that has been shown to extend life in laboratory mice, as well as in other species, such as yeast, worms, and flies. Brian Kennedy’s lab is very active in this research. However, scientists have long warned against using this drug for its life-extending properties because of its side effects, including in particular the immune-suppressing qualities (Yong 2009).

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were given metformin than for those in the placebo group, this would indicate that metformin has age-delaying properties. Yet even given these encouraging developments, or perhaps because of them, the sense of urgency is on the rise. Clinical trials with metformin are not even underway, but a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that seniors are “scrambling” to get enrolled (Levitz 2016). For transhumanists in particular the wait is unacceptably long, so activists have been using the drug off-label for quite some time. The pill box organizers for weekly doses I’ve seen some transhumanists carrying around are the size of the one used by my late grandmother (who lived to be ninety), filled with drugs that they trust have age-defying properties.37 Among these are vitamins and supplements, melatonin, and a variety of smart drugs and nootropics that increase alertness, including modafinil, a medication that is currently banned in Russia, which considers it a Schedule II drug. Not that long ago, metformin became one of the drugs appearing in many of these pill boxes, based on the belief that it has a number of beneficial effects, such as preventing cancer, lowering blood sugar and therefore preventing diabetes, and acting as an appetite suppressant. One transhumanist told me she took it before bed, since lower blood sugar promotes better sleep. So we could say that in a certain way the human trials have already started. In this experimenting on themselves, transhumanists are on a convergence course with the biohacking world, infusing the hacker ethos into their own biology. The hacking metaphor is widespread among academic scientists as well. “If there is a special program related to aging, then you can break it, or, as geeks might say ‘hack’ [khaknut’],” writes Skulachev in his popular book Zhizn’ bez starosti (Life without old age), cowritten with his son Maxim and biochemist Boris Feniuk (Skulachev, Skulachev, and Feniuk 2013). Although the idea of hacking is sometimes expressed by Russianizing English computer slang, as in khaknut’ for “hack,” other Russian words, such as vzlomat’ (break open) or kinut’, the slang term for “trick” or “scam,” are equally widespread in this usage. In this chapter’s closing section, I show how the hacking ethos in the Russian anti-aging community coexists with more established forms of political activism and lobbyism, including promoting anti-aging as the new Russian “national idea.” Hacking emerges here as an ethos relating to the 37. Ray Kurzweil takes about 100 supplements per day (down from 250 a few years ago, supposedly as a result of the advances of technology), which he believes have life-extending properties (Brodwin 2015).

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issue of free access (longevity activists always stress that anti-aging pills must be “open source”), while activists also engage in what Fedorovians call “creative, active doing,” bringing about the transformation of the world through hands-on personal involvement.

A New National Idea “My grandmother was a Cossack, a proud, fiercely independent woman, like my mother,” says Daria Khaltourina. We met Daria at the beginning of this chapter as one of the event organizers from the International Longevity Alliance and as the daughter of Valerija Pride. You know there’s this very sad, beautiful, and sorrowful Cossack song called “Not for Me.” It’s a really famous song, which describes all the beautiful things in life, but they are not for me, because a bullet is what is for me. Very typical Cossack song. So when my grandma died, I had this song spinning in my head. When we cryonized her, it was such a relief, I was so proud that we hacked [kinuli] the system. I was so proud of my mother, that we broke free from this trap [death]. Khaltourina’s grandmother, Valerija Pride’s mother, was one of the early patients at KrioRus. Shortly before her death, she gave her videotaped consent to be cryonized. Her brain was frozen and her body cremated. “I consider cryonizing someone as saving them, a worthy and noble task,” says Khaltourina. “After we cryonized my grandmother’s brain, we went to cremate her body. We were feeling uplifted. We were smiling, almost laughing.” Khaltourina is a social scientist by training and a successful anti-tobacco lobbyist, as well as a leader of the ILA. For her, cryonics, her anti-tobacco lobbyism, and her current longevity lobbyism are complementary activities: all of them have defeating death as their goal. Like many transhumanists, she has also adopted personal preventative practices, such as taking supplements, having a cryocontract, and avoiding excessive risks. She says she stopped skydiving once she became a transhumanist, as she gained a better understanding of the value of her own life.38 For Elena Milova, Khaltourina’s codirector at the ILA, the death of her mother from cancer at the age of sixty was one factor motivating her to become a transhumanist. Her initial interest was in the methods described by the Way 38. Daria Khaltourina, interview by the author, April 2015.

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of the Upgrade, a program of personal growth and improvement developed by activists in the transhumanist movement.39 Yet she found she wanted more than just personal growth. As a way of seeking to promote change in society, she joined Khaltourina in her lobbying activities.40 Their work now includes meeting with policymakers and legislators, keeping up with the scientific literature, and educating the public, as well as promoting their agenda on the national level. Khaltourina says that by the time the anti-tobacco campaign was becoming successful (Russia banned public smoking for the first time in 2013), political parties were vying with each other to claim anti-smoking as part of their agenda. Khaltourina and Milova believe that anti-aging should be the next such great cause. Or even better: the new national idea. “I think our transhumanist community is the second most significant in the world, perhaps after the one in California,” says Khaltourina. American transhumanists tend to identify themselves as libertarian, although there is a significant countermovement of “democratic transhumanists” who sometimes self-identify as “technoprogressives.”41 But even in California transhumanists were not that well organized before some of the Russian transhumanists moved there. And it was in Russia that the first political party with life extension as its main agenda originated. As mentioned in the introduction, in 2012 Mikhail Batin and colleagues created and registered the Longevity Party (Partiia prodleniia zhizni). In 2014 they traveled to California (where Maria Konovalenko is now based permanently as a PhD student), met local activist and well-known American transhumanist author Zoltvan Ishtvan, and discussed the idea of a dedicated political party with him. So it happened that in the fall 2015, Zoltvan Ishtvan entered the race for the U.S. president under the Transhumanist Party, which he created on the heels of their meeting (Transhumanist Party, n.d.).42 39. The principles and details of the Way of the Upgrade method are available here: http:// upgradeway.ru. 40. Elena Milova, interview by the author, July 2015. 41. For a useful classification of transhumanist political orientations, see Hughes 2010, 2014. 42. In the fall of 2015, Zoltvan Ishtvan rode around the United States in a school bus transformed into a coffin as part of his presidential campaign. While incredibly popular with Russian transhumanists (one of my Moscow-based interlocutors joined him on the bus), this action prompted disapproval on the part of some American transhumanists. They reportedly complained that driving around the Bible Belt in a coffin would not help their cause (interview by the author, 2016). Unlike members of the Russian Transhumanist Party, Zoltvan Ishtvan, is a self-described “futurist libertarian.”

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Figure 3.6. Maria Konovalenko at a transhumanist rally near the Kremlin, Moscow, 2011. Courtesy of Alexey Turchin.

Khaltourina, however, considers lobbying more important and less difficult than the necessary dealings with the bureaucracy involved in running a political party in Russia. So, in pursuit of direct political gains, they work to generate support from individual politicians friendly to their ideas, and using their personal and professional connections, they have already had some success. One of the panelists at the first ILA meeting, well-known political scientist and politician Sergei Markov, declared himself in favor of anti-aging as a national idea: I think the most important thing for society is to have a task that involves the whole nation. A national idea. We don’t have one right now. Some say that we should go to Mars, because big nationwide tasks, such as Soviet space and nuclear projects, will help developing technologies. But I don’t think it’s good that someone will go to Mars, while the majority will sit on their couches, drink beer and eat potato chips, and watch on TV how somebody is going to Mars. I think reaching an average life span of a hundred years should become this task. . . . This task will help unite liberals and conservatives, socialists and nationalists. . . . I think that the nineteenth century was the century of chemistry, the twentieth century was the century of

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physics, and the twenty-first century should become the century of biological, medical, and social technologies. The expedition to Mars would cost about $100 billion, but we have other ways of developing new technologies. This money would be better spent on longevity. The panelist suggested posing the idea at the next meeting of the All-Russia People’s Front (Obshcherossiiskii narodnyi front), devoted to public health. The front, created by Putin in 2011 to provide the ruling United Russia party with “new ideas, new suggestions and new faces,” serves as a coalition between United Russia and numerous nongovernmental organizations not associated with United Russia (Gazeta.ru 2011). The suggestion that longevity research should replace the space project as the new national idea was well received at the ILA meeting. Many lifeextension enthusiasts do consider space exploration a key task, but there is also widespread agreement that extending life—some simply call it “surviving,” with the implication of living long enough to benefit as new and more effective technologies of rejuvenation are discovered—is a more urgent priority. Also to be considered is Fedichev’s proposition from the other angle: unless genetically transformed and made immortal, humans will never be able to conquer space. Fedorovians, on the other hand, dislike the idea that one goal is more important than the other, as the two issues are so closely intertwined: for Fedorov space exploration is key to the task of universal resurrection. Given these particular histories, as well as the centrality of the Soviet space program to the national imaginary, it is not surprising that in the discussion of new national ideas in Russia, space and various kinds of immortality often come up together, presented either in hierarchical order of urgency or intertwined as simultaneous “common causes.” To further explore this meeting of national ideas, space exploration, and immortality, in the next chapter I draw on the parallels between the precursors of the Soviet space program and some current futurist endeavors. This focus will take us beyond transhumanist, Fedorovian, and biomedical life-extension communities to explore a related but independent group of futurists who have managed to carry their version of the “national technological idea” from a local initiative to the national level, gaining significant state support in the process.

4 Inside NeuroNet

“Humans always wanted to fly, but they were finally able to really fly only when the airplane wing and jet engine were invented. Likewise, humans have always dreamed of moving objects with their minds and communicating with each other through thoughts. What needs to happen so that this actually becomes possible?” asked the speaker. “First, we need technologies that would become an airplane wing for us.” He was a bespectacled man in his forties, standing on a makeshift stage outfitted with large speakers and microphones. It was May 2015, and I was listening to a presentation on futurist technology in an unlikely rural outdoor setting, a large, empty green field bordering a dense forest on the outskirts of Kostroma, a historic city about two hundred miles from Moscow. I was among a few hundred people gathered. He continued: “The twenty-first century is called a century of life systems. The decoding of the human genome—the Human Genome Project—led to the rapid rise of the biotech industry. Now we have the Human Brain Project.1 Once the brain is mapped—and they say it will happen by 2018—we will have a completely new wave of technologies modeled on the new understanding of neural networks.” The presenter was Andrei Ivashchenko, leader of a group called NeuroNet, one of eight working groups gathered for a four-day event known as the Foresight Fleet, comprised of three large boats filled with scientists, entrepreneurs, and visionaries gathered to sail from Moscow to Kostroma to brainstorm about Russia’s technological future. The other groups represented on the boats were 1. The Human Brain Project is a ten-year project launched in 2013 with funding from the European Union (Human Brain Project, n.d.) A similar project is also in existence in the United States, called the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), also established in 2013 (National Institutes of Health, n.d.). 165

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HealthNet, FoodNet, MarineNet, FinNet, AeroNet, AutoNet, and SafeNet, tending, respectively, to the future of the health, food, maritime, finance, aviation, automotive, and security industries. The suffix “Net” had been chosen to emphasize the key role played by the Internet in the functioning of all these fields, in addition to their anticipated horizontal (and networked) organizational structure. While the responsibilities assumed of the other seven industries were self-explanatory, the focus of NeuroNet—the future of neurotechnologies—remained both elusive and intriguing to many participants. This was day three of the event and the first time the three boats reached the shore and disembarked; the participants of previously separated working groups could now share the results of their two days’ worth of hard work with each other. I was on the boat named after the eighteenth-century Russian author and radical social critic Aleksandr Radishchev and carrying three groups: HealthNet, FinNet, and NeuroNet. The other two boats carried the names Lev Tolstoy, after the epochal Russian writer, and Zosima Shashkov, after a Soviet maritime engineer and politician. Two transhumanists I knew from Moscow happened to be members of HealthNet group, so I was also keeping an eye on them. But the reason I asked to be put on the Radishchev was specifically to accompany the NeuroNet group as a participant observer. I had been studying their ideas for a few months prior to the event. Radishchev (1749– 1802), coincidently, while known more for his social criticism, was one of the first Russian authors of a proper philosophical treatise, titled O cheloveke, o ego smertnosti i bessmertii (Of man, his mortality, and immortality) (Radishchev [1809] 1939). This was definitely the right boat for me. Ivashchenko detailed what he expected would be the three types of products to emerge from the growing neurotechnologies market. They may sound futuristic, he assured the audience, but the prototypes already exist. First, there will be augmented and even entirely new artificial senses. Prototypes in this case include “artificial eyes and ears” for disabled people, such as cochlear implants for the hearing impaired. The second emerging trend is “brain fitness.” As yet we read only two brain states: relaxation and concentration. “Imagine what happens when we can read fifty brain states as opposed to just two?” Finally will come digitally controlled body prosthetics, the prototypes of which are already helping disabled people move cursors on the display screen or operate robotic arms through brain-computer interfaces (BCIs; sometimes also called mind-machine interfaces). BCIs allow users to control external electronic devices using brain waves exclusively, without any bodily movement being involved. What BCIs actually do, despite the popular

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misconception that they are “mind-reading devices,” is acquire and analyze brain signals, translating them into commands sent to output devices that then carry out the desired action (Shih, Krusienski, and Wolpaw 2012). “Just think about it,” Ivashchenko noted excitedly. “Soon humans will be able to control anything in their environment using neurointerfaces. Able to operate anything in their houses, turn on coffee machines or any other domestic equipment through the exercise of pure thought alone!” At this point the speaker quickly wrapped up his presentation, under warning from the timekeeper, without giving us much time to fully absorb the implications of these almost magicalsounding technologies. I recall being struck by how unflustered he seemed to be by the rapid descent from the virtually transcendent of artificial senses to coffee machines and the quotidian mundane. It is precisely this mix of the transcendent and the mundane that had been intriguing me since I first learned of NeuroNet. On the most superficial level, the NeuroNet project is often presented as Web 4.0—an Internet of people all connected via neurointerfaces. As proponents of Web 4.0 explain things, Web 1.0 was the Internet as we knew it before social media and consisted primarily of using search engines to look for information. Web 2.0 is what we have now, where social media and user-created content are becoming increasingly important. Web 3.0 is hypothetically all about virtual reality. NeuroNet, Web 4.0, is imagined as enabling us to transmit not only words and images but experiences and subjective states as well. The expectation is that this communication will be achieved by networking users equipped with BCIs. In current form these interfaces come in variants that are either noninvasive (with electrodes placed on the scalp) or invasive (electrodes implanted in or near the brain). While existing BCI technologies are being developed with medical, rehabilitative, or sometimes entertainment goals in mind, NeuroNet has more far-reaching objectives. The term has two meanings in Russian. In general, it refers to the ongoing development of neurotechnologies in the familiar sense of a “net” covering the world. But in the Russian context it also denotes a visionary project in which the development of neurotechnologies leads to the achievement of a collective consciousness, which takes it into the domains of visionary futurology and nationalist imaginaries. It is NeuroNet in the latter sense that interests me in this chapter. I consider the project in terms of both its spiritual-philosophical and its social-institutional aspects that are particular to the Russian technological scene, focusing on three broad themes. First, NeuroNet is a “bottom-up” project. It started as an idea around which amateurs began gathering together into interest groups and only then caught the

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attention of the scientific and business communities, as well as, quite recently, the government. The state-sponsored Foresight Fleet, for example, is part of a search for what I call “national technological ideas,” which involves first identifying and then developing products for emerging markets, in which Russia could potentially become a global leader. Neurotechnologies, more than one of the Fleet participants declared, might just be the next “megaproject” Russia is looking for, able to replicate the success of the Soviet space program, which is indeed the most common metaphor and reference point used in spreading enthusiasm about NeuroNet. The second theme involves visionary and spiritual currents, including a distinct eschatological dimension that is common to both NeuroNet and the idea of spaceflight, as it developed in early Russian futurist thought by such people as Fedorov, Tsiolkovsky, and their followers. Both early spaceflight and contemporary NeuroNet architects see their respective technologies as only a means to the end of their various visionary projects, the goal of which is to get us to certain kinds of futures, as well as enabling further transformations of the human. While a number of intersections can be identified among some key figures in the transhumanist, Fedorovian, and NeuroNet scenes, NeuroNet contributes a quite different vision of selfhood and personhood, despite sharing certain themes with the futurists discussed in previous chapters. Finally, the concept of NeuroNet is inseparable from the larger “foresight” technology, as the idea for the project originated in a foresight session, in the context of the recent emergence of the technology as an important innovation strategy in Russian business and industry. The end product of the Foresight Fleet working groups were so-called road maps outlining the development of these promising (and promissory) industries. In June 2015, the road maps were presented to the Presidential Council on Modernization and Innovative Economic Development, chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, which decides on state funding priorities (Government of Russia 2015). Because NeuroNet was voted the best project in the final tally on the boat, it became an integral part of these presentations. In the end, NeuroNet became one of three markets whose road maps were officially accepted by the council.2 This chapter thus investigates the interplay between the technological and the national, the market oriented and the visionary in the project of NeuroNet, 2. The other two were AutoNet and AeroNet. To the delight of the project’s enthusiasts, this was also the first time the word “NeuroNet” was pronounced in a government setting and subsequently quoted in the official press (Butrin, Kriuchkova, and Sapozhkov 2015).

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in this moment as it is carried from the imagination of its amateur enthusiasts to more established scientists and on into the upper echelons of power. The case of NeuroNet is linked in this way to larger questions that arise in the book having to do with technology being used as the means for spiritual goals of not only advancing the very evolution of the species but also avoiding the threat of human extinction. Highlighting the parallels between futurist neurotechnologies and an older project that started as a grassroots idea with both mystic and technological aspirations—that of spaceflight—I track what kinds of bodies and minds emerge out of the current entanglement of brains, machines, and the Internet.

Chips and Mind Melds “NeuroNet is not just about a proverbial chip in your brain,” Timour Shchoukine said to me. We met Timour in chapter 1 as the cofounder of the Avatar Project, who later left it to work on projects he considered more promising.3 A man in his late thirties, Timour is thin and dark-haired (his mother is a Tatar from Ufa, he tells me shortly after we start talking). He speaks very fast, seems permanently electrified, and is always bursting with ideas. Together with his colleague and friend Pavel Luksha, they coined the term “NeuroNet,” referring to a brain-to-brain network accomplished through brain-computer interfaces. NeuroNet prototypes are already in existence. In recent years, researchers at Duke University have done experiments in which electrodes are implanted in animals’ brains and then interconnected wirelessly to test whether several animals can learn to synchronize their thinking and perform a task together. They can. Three monkeys placed in different rooms learned how to synchronize their brain activity, control a virtual avatar arm together, and grab a ball on the screen. The researchers called it a “Brainet” (Ramakrishnan et al. 2015).4 With humans, however, things are more complicated, and BCI bioethics (or neuroethics, as it is sometimes referred to) is becoming a burgeoning field.5 3. Timour Shchoukine, interview by the author, March 2015. 4. In another experiment in the same lab, four rat brains were interconnected into a Brainet. In performing various simple tasks, Brainets consistently did as well as or better than single rats. The researchers called networks formed by multiple animal brains connected via BCIs “a new type of computing device”: an “organic computer” (Pais-Vieira et al. 2015). 5. In recent years, a number of bioethics councils and groups have issued reports on BCIs. See, for example, Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2012. A neuroethics seminar on BCIs and “plugged-in” patients was held at the Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics in late

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In Russia, characteristically, certain conservative religious groups learned about BCIs before professional bioethicists, issuing alarms about the mass “chipization” or “enchipping” (chipirovanie, chipizatsiia) of the population (Tsareva, n.d.). Yet, according to Timour, with coming technological developments, invasive procedures, such as implanting chips in the brain, might not be necessary. “You’d have to be crazy to implant a chip in the brain,” he continued, “when the technology is changing so fast.” In the future, it might be that all that is needed to “plug in” is an injection. And anyway, NeuroNet is not at all about chips. It’s about new modes of human interaction, which will lead to collective consciousness and enhance our problem-solving capacities. You see, current technologies of interaction, in our conditions of increasing complexity, are not efficient. The point to be emphasized for Timour is that NeuroNet will enhance communication, as we are currently relying on “outdated formats” to solve complex problems. Conferences are a good example: You gather once a year, discuss a topic, then go home. At some point you recall something, perhaps insert three sentences in an article, and don’t discuss it again until the next year. This is an example of a completely outdated format. In this case, NeuroNet, which will provide direct brain-to-brain or mind-to-mind interaction, makes a lot more sense in terms of efficiency. While the neurotechnologies specifically foreseen as arising from the Human Brain Project have rehabilitative and medical goals—help paraplegics move or as a potential cure for Alzheimer’s—Timour envisions a distinctly emphatic and communicative dimension. Many problems, whether on the scale of the family or the world, he assumes are intractable because of poor and ineffective communication. Connecting brains via BCIs and the Internet will augment our intellectual power, helping us solve previously insurmountable problems. BCIs became thinkable with the discovery of electrical activity in the brain by the German neurologist Hans Berger in the early 1920s, who went on to develop electroencephalography (EEG). Since then BCIs have come a long way and are in wide use today as assistive technologies to help patients restore 2015 (Center for Bioethics 2015). While most of the attention is on BCIs being used for rehabilitative goals, a widely cited article by University of Pennsylvania researchers raises questions about the bounds of the human and the self suggested by potential uses of BCIs for human brain-to-brain contact (Attiah and Farah 2014).

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cognitive and motor functions.6 While certain BCIs are invasive, requiring major surgery to implant a neurochip either in the brain itself or between the brain and the skull, non-invasive BCIs, such as those based on EEG, have already entered the consumer market with inexpensive direct-to-consumer devices functioning essentially as extensions of the nervous system for purposes of entertainment, such as video games.7 An application integrated with Google Glass, for example, can take photos and post them to social media without any vocal command, by “pure thought” alone (Lunden 2014). Pointing to the genealogy of BCIs emerging from the earlier EEG technology, anthropologist Stefan Helmreich suggests considering BCIs as more “technically tuned” descendants of 1970s “biofeedback” technology, a mindbody technique in which brain waves are used to regulate bodily functions. He cites British historian of science Andrew Pickering to show how in the 1970s biofeedback escaped the bounds of established neurophysiology to blend with the history of the American counterculture (Helmreich 2013, S145; Pickering 2010, 83). The original applications of biofeedback were in psychiatry, but its development as a technology coincided with two broader cultural tendencies characteristic of the 1970s: a fascination with the brain and the countercultural infatuation with “Eastern” philosophies. EEGs became the perfect medium in which to search for transcendental experiences. Quoting David Rorvik, popularizer of the term “cyborg,”8 Pickering notes that “with the dawning of the cybernetic seventies,” EEG emerged as a kind of electronic successor to the hallucinogens of the 1960s. Biofeedback training was talked about as 6. BCI is sometimes used interchangeably with neuroprosthetics (for example, a cochlear implant), but the difference is that neuroprosthetics connect any part of the nervous system to a device, while BCIs connect the brain with the computer system. 7. An American company called NeuroSky, Inc., for example, is a pioneering manufacturer of low-cost BCIs for consumer applications; http://neurosky.com/. 8. David Rorvik was an American journalist and novelist, author of As Man Becomes Machine: The Evolution of the Cyborg (1971). He picked up the term from two NASA scientists, Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline, in their 1960s paper “Cyborgs and Space.” The scientists argued that “altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space.” By saying that space travel challenges man not only technically but also spiritually, they proclaimed the onset of man taking part in his own biological evolution (Clynes and Kline 1960). This idea, that exploring space presupposes the human body being redesigned to become long living, if not immortal, also appeared in the work of Vasilii Kuprevich, the Soviet biologist quoted by Anastasia Gacheva on the first page of the present book. See also Bernstein, n.d.a on the connections between life extension and space exploration in Soviet science and fiction.

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“electronic yoga,” a shortcut to meditative experiences that did not require “years of sitting on mountaintops” (Rorvik in Pickering 2010, 84). Unlike biofeedback, as Helmreich points out, BCIs usually have medical and rehabilitative goals, such as helping paraplegics or people suffering from lockedin syndrome, which renders them incapable of even the slightest muscular movement (2013, S145). Yet perhaps BCIs are now being taken in other directions. Timour’s colleague and NeuroNet’s cocreator, Pavel Luksha, a tall, blond man in his early forties, likewise stressed the technology’s potential as a means of communication, extending its applications into the psychotherapeutic: Imagine millions of people who are all connected to this thing. Let’s say all seven billion. Not connected the way they are now with Facebook, but with a much higher degree of bodily integration. Completely open for communication with others. What starts to happen at this moment? I think what happens might be similar to what happens in group therapy. A lot of unconscious elements start to surface, which might produce therapeutic effects. Or, on the contrary, they might produce terrible conflicts.9 Quite in the tradition of Fedorov, Pavel is thinking of the roots of disunity in the world. Unlike Fedorov, he sees it not in the existence of death but in current human imperfection leading to the environmental crisis and possible human extinction. Saying that our planet is in crisis, with forests disappearing, oceans polluted, and species going extinct, Pavel sees the only solution in collective evolution to a higher state of consciousness. Developing his thoughts on the communicative and therapeutic dimensions of collective consciousness, he suddenly upped the ante a few notches, revealing a distinctly eschatological perspective. In fact, I do think that connecting brains/minds into NeuroNet will most likely produce awful conflicts. I can even compare the process to the Last Judgment, after which we might live happily ever after. After this, we will reach a state of collective Buddha Maitreya. Or the kingdom of the righteous, if you like. Pavel freely mixes his eschatological metaphors from Buddhism and Christianity. In Buddhism, Buddha Maitreya is the future Buddha who will appear on Earth when dharma is in a state of extreme decline. But in many theosophically 9. Pavel Luksha, interview by the author, March 2015.

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inspired religious movements as well as other syncretic new religions such as the Bahá’í Faith, Buddha Maitreya often appears as a collective image of a prophesied messiah-like figure, bringing about the salvation of humankind, or a “Cosmic Christ,” as Pavel put it.10 Pavel continued: We will reach a collective Buddha, but only through a severe purification process. A collective purification process. And, it seems to me, it is impossible to avoid: humanity will have to do this at some point. NeuroNet is just one of the technological projects that allow us to enter that place. One alternative is just to crawl away and die out. We’ve already created a situation where we will either break through to over there or become extinct as a species. Given the rather dire state of the world, NeuroNet suddenly emerges not only as a means for improving communication or even producing therapeutic effects but as a certain kind of salvation project, which will deliver humanity out of its current stalemate. On one occasion Pavel and Timour appeared back-to-back as speakers at a Moscow TEDx event.11 They didn’t know each other but liked each other’s talks and stayed in touch. Pavel’s background was in economics while Timour’s was in cognitive psychology, and both of them combined an interest in futurism with a fascination with esotericism and spirituality. Timour I had first met during my 2015 research in Moscow, but I had been acquainted with Pavel for quite a while before that. Like many key figures in this book, Pavel is a polymath, equally versed in philosophy, social sciences, art (he is an artist himself), literature, religion, and cutting-edge “hard” science. His formal background, however, is in economics, with an MA from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and a PhD from the Russian Academy of Sciences. When we first met in 2008, it was to discuss a visual anthropology project he was trying to develop with a filmmaker friend, which involved becoming temporary apprentices to a diverse set of spiritual masters around the world. I ended up not participating in the project, but Pavel and I continued to communicate. In the meantime, Pavel built an impressive career, essentially 10. He is citing the notion of the Cosmic Christ that appears in Teilhard de Chardin’s writings (1999). 11. TEDx events are independent, free, locally organized speaker events held under the auspices of TED—short talks about cutting-edge ideas in the areas of technology, entertainment, and design.

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creating a unique niche for himself, allowing him to unite his diverse skills and passions. In some sense he is achieving the synthesis of art, science, and religion that Fedorov advocated.12 In his years as a professional economist, Pavel’s interest was long-term strategic planning. He felt that capitalism, with its primary orientation toward economic growth, was not conducive to planning for the long term and that our near-depletion of natural resources was a telling example of such shortsightedness. The Soviet period, he said, had had a robust academic concentration on long-term planning, but in the 1990s it disappeared. Setting his goal to revive an interest in the field through innovative methodologies, Pavel initially leveraged his economics background to do consulting for corporations. “But then I realized that I was not satisfied with the corporate world, with all its restrictions and inflexibility,” Pavel said. “I realized that education was the field where my skills were most needed.” After being appointed Professor of Practice at SKOLKOVO, the Moscow School of Management, Russia’s largest private business school,13 Pavel became one of Russia’s main experts in the “future of education” field. I first started working with schoolteachers, who asked me to tell them what is ahead for them in ten, fifteen, twenty years. What they would teach depended on the answer. We discussed the transformations education will be undergoing due to new technologies and social change. I realized that we need some kind of technology for quickly propelling [vbros, or throwing forward] people into the future. In the meantime, I met like-minded people. And with one of them, Dmitry Peskov, we founded such a technology. It’s called Rapid Foresight. Based on his expertise in education, Pavel was hired as a consultant for a new government organization called the Agency of Strategic Initiatives (ASI). ASI is a nonprofit organization created by the Russian government in 2011 to promote innovative entrepreneurial business and social projects, as well as to enhance “social mobility for young professionals and teams in medium-sized businesses and the social sector by supporting socially significant projects and initiatives” (Kremlin.ru 2012). At ASI, Pavel began a collaboration with 12. For Fedorov, religion provides moral guidance, whereas art and science have the role of means in the task of universal resurrection. 13. The school was established in 2006; see http://www.skolkovo.ru/public/en/skolkovo /skolkovo-about/.

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Dmitry Peskov, head of the Young Professionals division.14 Together, they came upon the methodology of foresight and cocreated Rapid Foresight, their own version of the technology. While traditional foresight trainings demanded large budgets and many months of work, with Rapid Foresight it takes only days, sometimes even hours.15 Pavel Luksha’s diverse interests led him to become involved with a number of different communities that might not have intersected otherwise. While with Peskov he collaborated on developing a methodology of foresight, with Shchoukine he applied the method to develop an altogether different idea. Like Luksha, Shchoukine himself was a key figure in several intersecting communities. A psychologist by training, Shchoukine had been fascinated with biofeedback since his undergraduate years, and it eventually became his dissertation topic at the Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He originally wanted to do his graduate work on the use of biofeedback to study lucid dreaming, but the topic (“self-regulation in lucid dreaming”), he explained to me, was, first of all, a little bit “out there” and second, was located at the intersection of psychology and psychophysiology, so he had trouble finding a “home” within one department. Another long-term interest of Shchoukine’s was mind-body practices, from Buddhism to the syncretic teaching of the Georgian spiritual master George Gurdjieff. Having noticed that it was easier for him to do his spiritual practice while lucid dreaming, he wanted to build a biofeedback machine that would induce such a dreaming state. Without much support from the institute, he ended up defending on another biofeedback-related topic and then went on to found his own start-up

14. ASI’s Dmitry Peskov is not to be confused with Putin’s press secretary, who is his namesake. 15. In the last few years, Pavel has begun exporting their Rapid Foresight technology to international meetings and gatherings, such as WorldSkills, and he has organized his own forum, Global Education Futures, which now regularly holds meetings around the world. Pavel said to me proudly: “At one of these meetings in California, I was approached by one of Obama’s education advisors, who said to me, regarding Rapid Foresight: ‘This technology should be used in every school and in every university.’ Who knows, maybe it will be!” Global Education Futures produces numerous publications in Russian and English, one of the most popular being Atlas novykh professii (The atlas of emerging jobs), now in its second edition, which lists jobs such as “gene-therapy expert,” “space biologist,” “IT preacher,” “virtual reality architect,” and “clothes 3d model programmer” (Atlas of Emerging Jobs 2015). An impressive road map to the future of education from 2015 to 2035 can also be found on the forum’s website (Global Education Futures Forum, n.d.).

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called Wetware,16 devoted to designing and writing software for biofeedback devices. Like Luksha, Shchoukine is also an artist, but while Luksha is a painter, Shchoukine practices science-art, or sci-art, a genre inspired by science and sometimes making use of scientific technologies and ideas. In his works Shchoukine incorporated what he knew best: biofeedback. One of his projects (in collaboration with curator Darya Parkhomenko) included a modified version of the Serbian American performance artist Marina Abramović’s piece “The Artist Is Present.” Impressed by the live piece at the major Abramović retrospective at MoMA in 2010, in which Abramović sat still for more than seven hundred hours, with audience members invited to sit across her and exchange gazes, Parkhomenko invited her to Moscow. In a modified “sci-art”– inspired Russian version, both Abramović and the people taking turns sitting in front of her were fitted with EEG devices to track and record their brain waves, which were projected on an overhead screen. The performance piececum-scientific experiment was titled “Measuring the Magic of the Mutual Gaze,” and its results were intended to be used for further study. As described in chapter 1, Shchoukine was instrumental in creating Russia 2045, collaborating closely with Itskov from 2010 through 2012. By late 2012, however, he was feeling some dissatisfaction with the work of Russia 2045—in his words, there was too much talk and not enough action—leaving it to work on NeuroNet with Luksha, who by then was already developing foresights, as they are called, with Peskov. The plan for the development of NeuroNet, as it stands today, was born through such a foresight. While Shchoukine and Luksha were assembling the new experts needed to brainstorm the technical and philosophical aspects of brain-to-brain networks, Peskov became deeply involved in a promising new project started by the Agency of Strategic Initiatives. In early 2015, ASI had created something called the National Technology Initiative (NTI), a nationwide program dedicated to “the creation of fundamentally new markets and providing conditions for global technological leadership of Russia by 2035” (National Technology Initiative, n.d.). Among the goals were reindustrializing the country, achieving “import substitution” (importozameshchenie),17 reversing the brain drain, and 16. “Wetware” is a term taken from computer science, applying the metaphor of “hardware” and “software” to the biological brain. 17. “Import substitution,” with the goal of promoting domestic products at the expense of foreign imports, became one key response to the sanctions imposed on Russia following the 2014 crisis in Ukraine.

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Figure 4.1. Marina Abramović (right) sitting in Moscow with electrodes, 2011. Courtesy of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art.

planning a high-tech future for Russia. In Moscow in 2015 I observed in real time—and not without certain astonishment—how NeuroNet progressed from a utopian project of speculating about the achievement of a collective consciousness to being increasingly positioned as one of the select among identified promising and promissory markets in the new state-level technological imaginaries.18 As one NeuroNet enthusiast pointed out in April 2016, 18. Shortly after the formation of NTI, its priorities were discussed at the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to its vice-director V. V. Ivanov, the main goal of NTI is to secure the “global technological parity between Russia and countries with current technological leadership.” To reach this goal, he proposed to resolve the problems of import substitution in five to seven years and transition to the new technology-based economy and reindustrialization in twenty to thirty years. To resolve these issues, Ivanov proposed creating the statelevel programs “Import Substitution-2020” and “Technological Parity-2030.” Ivanov suggested that Russia needs “to outrun without catching up” (obgoniat’, ne dogoniaia), meaning that it should not repeat what was done elsewhere but reach leadership positions with its own ideas and methods. Such success can only be achieved by the development of science and the right choice of scientific and technological priorities (Russian Academy of Sciences 2015; Volchkova

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exactly one year after the Foresight Fleet, there are now two NeuroNets: one the original project of collective intelligence, the other a statewide project, generated by NTI, which he called, tongue-in-cheek, Rosoboronneuronet (the Russian-defense-program-neuronet, a made-up abbreviation playing on the usual prefix, rosoboron, for the various Russian defense-related agencies).19 How is it that this radically futurist, utopian project caught the interest of a government agency?

Foresight: Reengineering Futures “Who knows what the National Technology Initiative is?” asked Dmitry Peskov, a man of about forty with short salt-and-pepper hair, addressing an audience of eager-looking twenty-somethings dressed in business casual, in a tightly packed conference room in the center of Moscow. Peskov was one of three men wearing jeans and velour jackets sitting sideways to the audience on the podium next to a large, white, dry-erase board. Pavel Luksha sat next to him. “It’s a line in the latest president’s address,” ventured a male voice from the audience, followed by a roar of laughter. He was referring to a presidential address that had taken place a few months earlier, in which the president, indeed, called for the realization of a “national technology initiative” that would allow Russian companies to “become symbols of national success and national pride, as it once happened with the atomic or space projects.”20 2015). Agreeing with the principle of “outrunning without catching up,” Peskov emphasized ASI’s official point of view that the core of NTI is not import substitution but obtaining competences and forming coalitions in order to grow national companies on emerging or not-yetexisting markets. The president of the Russian Venture Company, the government venture fund and a key tool for building innovation in Russia, Igor’ Agamirzian put it plainly: “by focusing on import substitution, we only undermine our potential, creating goods that are not competitive on the global market. Instead, we need to concentrate on the growth of exports” (St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2015). “To outrun without catching up” is a play on Lenin’s famous formula “dognat’ i peregnat’”—“to catch up and outrun [the West],” widely used in Russia in both serious and ironic contexts. 19. Blog of Anatolii Levenchuk, a systems engineer and early collaborator with Luksha and Shchoukine (Levenchuk 2016). 20. The reference is to Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly in late 2014, which included the following statement: “Russia is able not only to engage in a major renovation of its own industries, but also to become a producer of ideas and technologies for the whole world. It should become a leader in the production of goods and services, which would form the global

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“It’s not just a line, there is a whole paragraph about it,” Peskov replied calmly, seemingly undisturbed by the young audience’s pesky cheerfulness. “The thing is that in the twenty-five years since the fall of the Soviet Union and for the last thirty years before its collapse we don’t have a single example to point at of a Russian company growing into a global champion in an actually existing market.” “What about Stolichnaya Vodka?” quipped a tall blond man, sitting on the podium next to Peskov and Luksha, causing a brief pause followed by another row of laughter. “Unfortunately,” retorted Peskov without blinking an eye, “this is a very old market, fully formed since the seventeenth century. . . . Since the rocketand-space project [raketno-kosmicheskii proekt] ended,” he continued, “and we know that in the technological sense these two projects ended back in the 1960s—for that time we have had no big new project from which global business could emerge.” Again there was an interruption from the audience, someone citing Kaspersky Lab, the leading Russian software security group, as a successful counterexample.21 Projects like Kaspersky Lab and Yandex (the largest search engine in Russia), Peskov explained to his audience patiently, came out of the wreckage (na oblomkakh) in the 1990s of the space and nuclear projects, emerging at the same time as the new global market of the World Wide Web. There was no such market in actual existence in Russia at the time. Thus “our companies took advantage of that opportunity and grew into national champions with global leadership ambitions, without actually attaining global leadership. So essentially, we missed the window of opportunity.” That is why, Peskov insisted, Russia has a chance only where completely new markets are emerging and not where markets have already been formed. “We are professionals who see the future very clearly,” he resumed, “and our goal is to create a chance for Russia to repeat the success of the space project within the next twenty years.” Peskov was speaking in March 2015, on the first day of a monthlong event I was attending called the Foresight School, a program for young professionals sponsored by the department of ASI headed by Peskov. The remark about technological agenda. We need our companies’ achievements to become symbols of national success and national pride, as it once happened with the atomic or space projects. . . . In this regard, I propose to realize a national technological initiative.” Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, December 4, 2014 (Putin 2014). 21. Kaspersky Lab, www.kaspersky.com.

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professional “seers” of the future and the appearance of the word “foresight” in the title of the event (not to mention the presence of a fieldworking anthropologist observing in the audience) might evoke a congress of diviners and fortune-tellers, but no one at this gathering claimed any supernatural abilities of precognition. Instead, what they meant by “foresight” was a methodological strategy for both planning and shaping the future through a variety of methods, such as brainstorming, creating scenarios, role-playing, and producing road maps. Competition at the Foresight School was tough, but a bright future beckoned for those who completed it successfully, with rewards ranging from landing a job in the field to maybe even being selected to serve as moderators on the next Foresight Fleet—a yearly event where more than a thousand experts, businesspeople, scientists, and futurologists spend a few days on a large cruise ship sailing in various parts of the country exchanging ideas in workshops and brainstorming sessions with the goal of both “seeing” and “shaping” the future.

The Future Must Be Created “The future is not fixed,” said Peskov, continuing to lay out his vision at the Foresight School. “It depends on the efforts—your efforts,” he stressed, turning to the audience. Conceding that the future is extremely difficult to predict, he insisted that it can be created. The future doesn’t stem entirely from the past but depends also on decisions made by active participants and stakeholders. If we want a particular future, we must put some effort now into making it what we want it to be. Three steps, according to Peskov, are key to creating the future through foresight technology: 1. People have to believe in a particular future. 2. They have to agree on it. 3. They have to start taking active steps to create it. Peskov proceeded to explain the methodology and structure of the foresight process, which we would all get to try out later that day. Foresights are usually organized for a specific industry and could include both experts and laypeople, who are led by the moderator. The moderator collects answers to various questions, assisted by a compiler (sborshchik), whose job is to organize the results into a chart and then a road map. Peskov announced that the trial foresight that day would be on the subject of consumer drones (bespilotniki). Will these drones be delivering pizza to people or the mail? Will people in the

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future all be surrounded by swarms of microdrones constantly monitoring them, beaming real-time data to health providers? In emerging industries that are as young as this, runs Peskov’s message, we have to imagine ourselves in the roles of both experts and consumers. Foresight technology comes from the world of management and strategic planning and has been in use in its current form since the 1960s. One of the earliest appearances of the term “foresight” in this context is ascribed to science fiction writer H. G. Wells, who is also known for his writings on military strategy. In 1932 Wells gave a talk at the BBC titled “Wanted—Professors of Foresight!” In it he made the following observation: It seems an odd thing to me that though we have thousands and thousands of professors and hundreds of thousands of students of history working upon the records of the past, there is not a single person anywhere who makes a whole-time job of estimating the future consequences of new inventions and new devices. There is not a single Professor of Foresight in the world. But why shouldn’t there be? . . . Isn’t it plain that we ought to have not simply one or two Professors of Foresight but whole Faculties and Departments of Foresight? (Wells 1932) A variety of forecasting methods were developed in the aftermath of Wells’s call for future studies. One is the Delphi method, used to estimate the likelihood and outcome of future events; it came originally from efforts to estimate the impact of technology on warfare. Together they lead eventually to the emergence of the technique of foresight as a “future-oriented technology analysis” ( Jemala 2010; Johnston 2008). Foresight, especially in its Russian version, is to be strictly distinguished from forecasting. In the USSR, forecasting (prognozirovanie) was officially recognized as a subfield of sociology, with a Department of Social Forecasting created in 1969 at the Institute of Sociology at the Russian Academy of Sciences. But Igor’ Bestuzhev-Lada, one of the most prominent academics in this field, writes that the work was really just “an imitation of forecasting,” since in the official ideology of the movement toward communism there was no space for alternative futures (1998, 577). Bestuzhev-Lada distinguishes between “social” and “technological” forecasting, noting that success is slightly easier to come by in regard to the latter. Technological forecasting may, in turn, sound similar to what is currently meant by foresights, but according to Luksha and Peskov, there is a marked difference between the two. They do not think of themselves as coming out of this tradition of forecasting but

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to be continuing in the line of Soviet philosopher and psychologist Georgy Schedrovitsky (1929–94), remembered for the complex theory of activity he elaborated in his “methodological circle.” Aside from multiple contributions to various disciplines, Schedrovitsky envisioned producing social change through so-called organizational-activity games (organizatsionno-deiatel’nye igry), played with open-ended future scenarios (with relevance perhaps to a specific industry or profession) with the overarching purpose of social planning (Rotkirch 1996).22 As Schedrovitsky wrote in one of his articles, the forecasting approach is mistaken. He recalled the following story from the 1960s, when his friend and colleague Vladimir Lefevre, a Russian psychologist and mathematician, told him: “Forecasting does not exist and cannot exist.” Schedrovitsky was really surprised. “What do you mean?” he asked. “We have a laboratory of forecast, we have Bestuzhev-Lada and his glib colleagues.” Lefevre demurred. “But no!” he retorted. “In the world of action, there are plans, projects, and programs” (Schedrovitsky, n.d.). Peskov and Luksha likewise stress the point that forecast differs from foresight in that foresight is about action. Foresight, they say, is not only about predicting the future, like forecasting, but about “creating” it. Although Luksha and his colleagues also organize large-scale open-ended “activity games,” a foresight like the one we were to try out on the first day of the Foresight School always follows a fixed scenario with minor variations. In Rapid Foresight—the modified version created by Luksha and Peskov— a group gathers around a sheet of paper pinned to the wall showing a large empty table. Across the row at the bottom is a timeline with milestone dates, say, 2025, 2035, and 2045. The point of the timeline is to visualize what will be happening in particular industries in the near future. The moderators have a large supply of sticky cards with colored borders, titled with the names of fixed categories, such as Trends, Technologies, Formats, or Laws. Under the titles, the cards have a few lines to be filled in by participants, with the map gradually filling up with completed cards. The moderators draw lines between the cards and through time to see what will happen in the designated sectors as we move into the future. Before starting to work with the cards, on a separate piece of paper titled Subjects, participants list the parties most interested in and likely to be affected 22. Kukulin considers Schedrovitsky’s methodology movement a project of “alternative social engineering” (proektirovanie) (2007). Georgy Schedrovitsky’s son (born 1958), Petr Schedrovitsky, is a well-known public intellectual, who is now involved in foresight activities.

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Table 4.1. An Example of an Initial Blank Chart Trends

Trends Technologies Formats Events Laws 2025

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by this potential industry. Then come the first cards—usually Trends, the ones with the yellow border—for identifying the major tendencies in a given field. Once participants have written what they think these main trends are, a moderator collects the cards and reads them aloud, and through majority vote the approved cards get attached to the corresponding area on the map. A horizontal line is then drawn from a particular trend through time to see how far ahead in time this trend might go and whether it is likely to stop or increase. The procedure is then repeated for each category. Once all the cards have been filled out, the second group leader, called the compiler, takes some time to pull everything together, producing a preliminary road map, which later gets turned into an official road map for an industry with the help of a graphic designer. A road map of a NeuroNet foresight that took place in 2013 looked like the one pictured in figure 4.3. For the NeuroNet foresights in 2013 and 2014, the timeline was broken into three segments: 2015–20, 2020–30, and 2030–40. The primary technological trend of the first period was found to involve wearable gadgets like the ubiquitous fitness and sleep trackers and other smart gadgets, in particular as appliances become connected to each other (the so-called Internet of Things), and in the form of augmented reality (think of the Pokemon Go craze that started exactly one year after I was on the Foresight Fleet). Projects like the DARPA-initiated Silent Talk, a kind of computer-mediated telepathy allowing “user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals,” will also have been completed (Drummond 2009).23 As animals are easier to test on, neurotechnologies will enter the market for pet owners. 23. For an account of Soviet and American Cold War–era fascination with and research in telepathy as a communicative channel, see Lemon 2017.

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Figure 4.2. Road map in the making. This is midsession in a foresight, in this case with the timeline starting with 2018—a very near future. At this point the majority of cards have been applied to the period between 2018 and about 2020. Foresight Fleet, Russia, 2015. Photo by the author.

The second period, 2020–30, would see the intermediary development of the biometrinet, an Internet connecting wearable devices that track people’s physiological parameters. The Human Brain Project will be complete. Augmented reality will have become capable of transmitting smells and sensations. The human body will be home to implanted neurointerfaces, which will have become miniscule, cheap, and likewise ubiquitous. Social media will be united into the “net of nets.” We will be able to read brain states in addition to relaxation and concentration. Neurostimulators will appear. The final period sees the emergence of the full-fledged NeuroNet. This involves new protocols for transmitting “raw” neurodata, and with that the first neuro-communities based on a shared exocortex, denoting hypothetical external information-processing systems, which would augment the brain’s biological capacities. So far exocortices are imagined in the form of memory chips

Figure 4.3. NeuroNet road map. Courtesy of Pavel Luksha.

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and processors; a smartphone can be considered an exocortex. Throughout the three stages, the foresight registered a gradual rise in collective intelligence, the blurring of bodily boundaries, distributed personhood, and ultimately the replacement of hard implants with a special NeuroNet-access “organ.” The session also pinpointed potential threats, including, going from left to right on the timeline, a “new Mowgli” generation (a generation that does not know how to read or engage in verbal communication), neural hacking (someone hacks your brain and steals your memories), a “psycho-divide” (coined in analogy with the digital divide, where there is inequality of access), and the most familiar dystopic scenario: the “dog on the leash”—signifying total mental control by corporations and governments abusing their power with impunity (Luksha and Shchoukine 2014; Neironet 2016).24 This latter scenario might sound especially troubling, given the way NeuroNet is doubling these days—on the one hand, a visionary project of utopian collectivity, and on the other, a state-controlled technological megaproject. Given that NeuroNet enthusiasts are well aware of the good chances of a dystopic scenario developing with total government control (or, as some religious activists fear, the “chipization” of the population; per Revelation 13:16–17, an implanted chip is equal to the “mark of the beast”),25 why are they willing now to allow the government in at the moment of creation? Given their insistence that NeuroNet be open-access, why not go the biohacking route? Yet it appears the NeuroNet activists are willing to take the risk. With all their aspirations to dissolve bodily and mental boundaries, the project is rooted in a soft civic nationalism, with the futurists taking deep pride in Russia being a potential inventor of groundbreaking technology, returning, in the frequently cited claim, to the achievements of the space program, the “last Russian project we can be proud of.” Invoking Trotsky’s notion of “permanent revolution,” Peskov made the point that “the revolution will not stay in Russia. It would spread 24. In the beginning, activists hesitated between naming the project “Neuroweb” or “Neuronet,” finally deciding on the latter. The Wikipedia page to which I refer here was collaboratively created on the internal NeuroNet forum in 2015, with Shchoukine taking the lead. In 2015, I observed it grow from a shared Googledoc document to a published detailed article complete with full references. 25. A recent article published on a nationalist Russian Orthodox portal quotes the following lines from Revelation: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads. And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:16, 17) (Prikaz o vzhivlenii chipov uzhe podpisan 2016).

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anyway.” The implication was that once something is invented in Russia, the rest of the world is welcome to it (St. Petersburg National Research Institute of Information Technology, Mechanics, and Optics 2016). “I happen to live in Russia and I would like it if these projects appeared here first,” Peskov said. So is what we are seeing in NeuroNet, then, “yet another Russian doctrine threatening to save the world” (Hagemeister 1997, 202)? That is the question.

NeuroNet: A New Space Race? “When I say that Kaspersky Lab is heir to the space project, I am not joking.” This is Peskov explaining to the Foresight School participants that with the emergence of the space project in the 1930s, there existed no market for it. The USSR didn’t even have an airplane industry. The space program and associated industry was a joint effort, as Peskov sees it, on the part of dreamers, emerging scientists, and public interest, only gathering state support decades later. Sticking with the Kaspersky Lab example, Peskov posed a question to his audience: “Why do you think that in the poverty-stricken Russia of the 1990s, ripped apart by bandit capitalism, there emerged such a large number of excellent computer programmers, who worked almost for free?” The answer, he said without waiting, is that the USSR had been investing heavily in STEM secondary education since the 1960s, and in the 1980s the decision was made to catch up with the “technology revolution” by introducing computers and computer science classes in schools. Although the USSR suddenly fell apart shortly after, this project is still to be called successful because it constituted what Peskov called “anticipatory cadres training”—the training of an expert workforce for markets that did not exist at the time. To anticipate the kind of training needed for emerging markets, it is necessary to envision what things will be like in the next ten to twenty years. The goal of NTI is to build such an anticipatory training system, calling forth Russian champions with the potential to be global leaders in completely new markets. NTI leaders currently have the code names “nets” (seti) for such markets, he explained, because they will most certainly be integrated with the Internet. “We foresee several types of such markets that don’t exist today,” continued Peskov, “which in twenty years will weigh in at approximately the same level as the Internet market today.” These markets will attract intense attention, investments will pour in, cadres will be prepared for them, and new national and global champions will

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emerge. People will become millionaires and billionaires through these markets. We see these markets very clearly today. But we’re not the only ones. Anyone who is involved professionally with the future or doing prognosis or investments can see them clearly as well. Russia must not miss this chance. Peskov addressed the audience directly. People might be asking themselves how this could be possible in a country where freethinking is discouraged and the government attempts to suppress political opposition. Not to mention the financial crisis. “Pasha,” said Peskov, turning to Luksha next to him, “what else is there?” “Sanctions!” screamed someone from the audience, referring to the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. “Yes! And inflation as well,” Peskov announced, almost joyfully. “What else? From all these horrors, one can develop . . .” “Psychological sanctions!” volunteered someone else. “Exactly,” said Peskov. “Every one of you can produce your own laundry list of such horrors. . . . But think about 1932, when Sergei Korolev26 formed GIRD, the Group for the Study of Reactive Motion [gruppa izucheniia reaktivnogo dvizheniia].” Peskov yet again invoked the space program: Our space project grew from GIRD. It grew from a group of dreamers and engineers who were interested in this topic and who believed in this future. He sat with them in a basement of a house—which, by the way, is only a few meters from here, on Sadovaia-Samotechnaia. They didn’t have any money, any infrastructure, any state support. They were just a group of engineers working for free. But it turned out that they would be able to captivate [zarazit’] society with this idea. Peskov’s “group of engineers working for free” is a quip on the full form for the GIRD abbreviation in Russian: Gruppa inzhenerov, rabotaiushchikh darom, which could be construed as engineers working for free and was supposedly how Sergei Korolev and his colleagues lightheartedly referred to themselves. Peskov related a canonical story familiar to many Russians, elaborating on the appearance in the 1930s of amateur interest societies (kruzhki) studying reactive motion that sprang up all over the country. The participants built models, tried to fly them, and were making constant improvements. In 26. Sergei Korolev was the lead rocket engineer and spacecraft designer, considered in the national history to be the “father” of Soviet cosmonautics.

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possibly the first example of “open-source” education, free brochures were distributed called “The Road to University,” explaining the basic math, physics, or mechanics to anyone who was interested. Closer to the prewar years, these amateur constructors had grown up and started working in engineering firms. Again Peskov reminded everyone that the Soviet-era breakthrough happened in the conditions of Western sanctions as a result of another period of difficult relations with the West. And the East—East here signifying new Asian economies—did not yet exist as it does now and so had none of its own technologies at the time. The young audience listened with rapt attention. The parallels certainly softened the disconnect between the evident crisis in Russia in early 2015 and these promises coming from Peskov of a “bright” high-tech future. This was only a few months after Russia had plunged into a financial crisis (with major currency devaluation in late 2014) that I was attending the Foresight School, and only one week after the brutal murder right by the Kremlin wall of Boris Nemtsov, a major opposition politician, shook the country, including many who did not support him. Understandably the general mood was rather grim. In highlighting the new social contract, the implication of Peskov’s speech was that if massive sacrifices are needed, they will be worth it. Dividends will come pouring in, both in individual earnings and in the country’s recovered greatness. “Just imagine the 1930s,” said Peskov, returning to his favorite parallel. There’s hunger in the country. And in this poverty-stricken, devastated country, which had not yet even gone through technological modernization, somehow there emerged Katyushas [multiple rocket launchers], LaGGs, Yaks, MiGs [all fighter aircraft], and so on. How did this happen? Russia, as he went on to tell it, undertook a set of difficult negotiations with the United States, proposing to buy entire engineering centers and invite foreign engineers to Russia with money obtained from the sales of paintings and other valuables. “Yet look at our export structure today,” he said, shaking his head. “Aside from oil and gas, you will see that all current exports are remainders from the space project.” Examples include exports by Rosatom (the State Atomic Energy Corporation), the construction of nuclear power plants abroad, and arms sales—the latter, he emphasized, being especially salient direct descendants of the technological breakthroughs of the 1930s. “We need such a technological breakthrough once again. Don’t make me laugh about the so-called bad conditions,” he added, scoffing. “The way we are going to do it is not through bureaucracy. People have to first believe in this idea. Then they will

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start spending their time working on it.” The future doesn’t just happen. Peskov repeated his original formula. It needs to be created. The goal of the Foresight School, he concluded, is to give people the tools for how to first agree on shared images of the future and then start working together to create it. What does it mean that Peskov invokes the Soviet space program in this way and what does it have to do with neurotechnologies? To start, Peskov pictures a heroic image of the country in ruins, along with a group of enthusiastic activists dreaming of space and eventually succeeding in making it into a national goal. Second, by noting the secondary role of state funding and support in the early history of the Soviet space science, Peskov emphasizes the “bottom-up” nature of the beginnings of the space program, highlighting the agency of the individual actors who managed to drum up popular support in the 1930s.27 What he fails to mention, however, is that the story doesn’t start with Korolev and the founding of GIRD in 193128 but much earlier, in the midnineteenth century, with the emergence of space science fiction literature and a growing popular fascination with spaceflight. Continuing into the twentieth century and spurred by the technological utopianism of the Bolshevik revolution, dreams of space intensified in the 1920s (Siddiqi 2010). So while Peskov provides a narrative of materialist technological utopianism, he omits mention of the equally important “parallel” history to the Soviet space program, where, paradoxically, it was occult and religious ideas that moved certain futurist technologies forward. In this particular rendering, technology was viewed not as an end but a means to achieve spiritual goals. As space historian Asif Siddiqi (2008) has demonstrated, the 1920s saw an explosion of popular interest in space travel, which captured the imagination of laypeople outside the scientific community. People banded together in amateur societies devoted to space exploration, and the idea proved fascinating to any number of artists, filmmakers, and writers responsible for a large variety of representations of spaceflight. In recovering this history, Siddiqi traces two seemingly contradictory strands that contributed to the popular enthusiasm for space in the 1920s. One was the technological utopianism characteristic of the early Soviet embrace of science and technology as instruments of 27. In the English-language literature this history is most eloquently told by Asif Siddiqi, where he makes a case for amateur agency in bringing the Soviet space program to fruition, referring to it as “science from below” (2010, 8, 364). 28. GIRD was actually founded by another rocket pioneer, Fridrich Tsander, although Korolev quickly took a leading role (Siddiqi 2010, 119–24).

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modernization and progress. The other was a parallel set of spiritual ideas, likewise worshipping technology but whose primary interest lay not in modernization but in the evolution of the species. Fedorov, the Cosmists, and related projects fell squarely into the second category. Not in the least incompatible, the two communities and associated sensibilities were connected by a web of personal friendships, so membership was a rather fluid affair, even while sharing a number of basic elements. Both strands believed in the need for humanity to gain control over nature and both looked to technology as the means for achieving their goal, and they were both known for the “evangelical zeal” they brought to their causes (ibid., 288). What I want to suggest here is that something similar is happening in Russia today around emergent neurotechnologies. While advocates like Peskov stress the significance of new technologies for advancing industry and elevating Russia’s standing in the world, others look to the same innovations as a means for remaking the human.

The Noös and the Cosmos “I think it’s quite possible that people already possess some degree of telepathy,” Pavel said to me. “You know, when you call someone, and it turns out that they just thought about you? But you know what the best form of telepathy is? The mobile phone! It’s always with you, you call, you check your calls, you transmit your thoughts—much easier than telepathy. Maybe if you train that special ‘muscle,’ you can develop some telepathy. But why bother, when you have a cell phone?” Pavel and I have just settled into a back room of ASI’s “coworking center” called Tochka Kipeniia (the boiling point). I had already been there a number of times, as this is where the Foresight School and some of the Russia 2045 events took place. But I had not known of the existence of this peaceful space decorated in an “Asian fusion” style of a traditional tea room. The main area where the lectures and workshops are held is your typical trendy modern office space, complete with beanbags instead of chairs like you might see at a California tech start-up. The back room, instead, has soft oriental rugs on the floor, and we sit on low wooden stools. As he answers my questions, Luksha steeps a variety of green teas in several cast-iron kettles, pouring assorted thick green concoctions into my two cups. He looks like a magician mixing potions for a spell. If we do manage to create collective consciousness technology—what the NeuroNet project is aiming for—he continues, we might be able to transmit not only words and thoughts but even “nonverbal” or “superverbal” kinds of

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information, perhaps something like mental states or experiences. So the comparison between mobile phones and telepathic communication may have been a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the brain-to-brain connection in NeuroNet is none other than a kind of technologically enabled telepathy—described by some futurists as a “telepathy-chip mind-meld” (Goertzel 2009).29 A large, white, dry-erase board stands in the room, and in between steeping teas Pavel occasionally uses it to deliver mini-lectures, drawing charts and pictures, which I film. He has just filled the board with a web of heads, computers, arrows, and nodes in an effort to show how NeuroNet could hypothetically work once we all have our brains connected to computers via BCIs. A certain class of nonhuman objects is already connected in this way, he said, referring to the Internet of Things (IoT), a popular idea in tech circles, in which smart devices like networked appliances equipped with sensors gather data and communicate with each other in the cloud. Any appliance with an on/off button can and probably will be connected to the IoT. We are also beginning to see the emergence of the Internet of Animals. So far animals are only connected to their owners through microchip implants, but what if they could all be connected to each other? If the Internet of Things connects nonhuman objects, NeuroNet is a hypothetical Internet of People. “You can think about NeuroNet as a materialization of the noösphere,” Pavel says. The term “noösphere” or “noöspheric”—“noös” signifying mind or reason in Greek—is in much wider use in Russian than it is in English, especially in such phrases as “noöspheric thinking,” “noöspheric humanism,” and “noöspheric development.” He is using noöspheric here in the sense of something that is global while at the same time being imbued with ethics and utopian aspirations. The Internet has been called an example of the noösphere. In Russian the term is most often connected to the thought of Vladimir Vernadsky (1863–1945), a famous Russian geochemist, sometimes called “the Lomonosov of the twentieth century,” who is also regarded as part of the Cosmist pantheon. We briefly encountered Vernadsky in chapter 2, looking at the way Fedorovians further developed his theory of “autotrophic nutrition.” Vernadsky shared many other ideas with Teilhard de Chardin, whom he met in the philosophical seminar of Henri Bergson in Paris.30 Most famously, they shared the notion of the 29. A “telepathy chip” is a hypothetical neural implant that allows the wearer to project or receive thoughts and feelings from others through BCIs. 30. On Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the idea of teleological evolution, see chapter 2, note 41.

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“noösphere,” borrowed from another student of Bergson, Édouard Le Roy, signifying the “sphere of the mind,” coined in analogy with Vernadsky’s “biosphere,” the sphere of the living.31 Vernadsky’s impressively long career spanned a number of distinct historical periods in Russia and the Soviet Union, with his thought playing a foundational role in multiple scientific fields.32 A distinguished member of the Russian Imperial and then the Soviet Academy of Sciences (and founder and first president of the Academy of Sciences in Ukraine), Vernadsky elaborated a syncretic science of biogeochemistry integrating the study of chemical, physical, biological, and geological processes in the environment, most resembling what today is called “systems ecology.” His unique skills and expertise in geology, which was useful for the Soviets, as it had practical applications in the exploitation of natural resources, might have been the reason why such a highly unorthodox thinker as Vernadsky was spared from the Soviet repressions. A scientist-philosopher, Vernadsky advanced a number of paradigmatic 31. Despite being extremely popular and widely accepted in Russia, the notion of noösphere is controversial. There is a quasi-scholarly field called “noöspherology,” which sociologist of religion Nikolai Mitrokhin calls a Soviet “scientistic intellectual tradition, deifying Vladimir Vernadsky” and potentially “one of the most influential civic religions of Russia” (2004). Some critically minded intellectuals argue that while Vernadsky, indeed, developed a concept of biosphere, he never had a coherent theory of the noösphere, the latter being culled from disparate archival records, strung together by his devout followers, and published in edited volumes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a result, this argument goes, noösphere became an empty signifier for almost any kind of quasi-scientific, occult-esoteric, and sociopolitical grand theory (Prozorov 2012). The notion of noösphere, however, has recently enjoyed a revival in international academic circles as a precursor of the theory of the Anthropocene, although some argue that these concepts are quite different (Hamilton and Grinevald 2015). (The term “anthroposphere,” as the part of the biosphere used and transformed by humans, was coined by the Russian anthropologist Dmitrii Anuchin as early as 1902.) Fedorovians also use the term “noöspheric” to signify positive aspects of global processes. When asked at a seminar what she thought about globalization and anti-globalization, Svetlana Semenova replied that she saw some noöspheric gains, such as the world being increasingly interconnected and the development of science and new communication technologies, as positive. She also noted a certain unification in lifestyles, tastes, and aspirations around the world, although she regarded such unity as “imposed,” not freely chosen. The negative sides of globalization she pointed to involved the ways in which this unification benefited mostly the greed of transnational corporations, as well as in the imposition of a certain Western concept of “human rights,” which is often “very badly suited to the entire large regions with century-old religious and cultural traditions and values” (Semenova 2012, 472–73). 32. For an English-language biography of Vernadsky, see Bailes 1990.

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ontological concepts, classifying all matter as either “inert” (kosnoe) or “living” (zhivoe).33 He proposed replacing the term “life” with “living matter,” encompassing the totality of life on Earth, from the upper layers of the lithosphere to the highest elevations in the atmosphere capable of sustaining life, as well as the oceans. Anticipating the notion of the Anthropocene (Crutzen 2002), he argued that humans had become a geological force, capable of transforming the biosphere through conscious activity. Through collective human consciousness and intelligence, the biosphere is now being transformed into the noösphere, he argued, ushering in a fundamentally new geological era, with the current Cenozoic era being replaced by the Psychozoic, which is characterized by human intelligence.34 This collective intelligence, for Vernadsky, is manifest above all in science and technology. Referring to science as a “planetary phenomenon,” even proposing the formation of an Internatsional uchenykh (an International of scientists), he considered science the moving force behind the transition to the noösphere, a cosmic evolutionary process in itself (Vernadsky 1926, 1989, 1991, [1944] 1993b). Borrowing from Vernadsky, Luksha contends that we are on the verge of the “Psychozoic era,” which he defines more specifically as “the explosion of new kinds of psychic phenomena,” such as collective consciousness and distributed personhood. “You have to understand something, however,” he adds. “The categories we are used to will be completely swept away in the Psychozoic era.” We will no longer be able to determine what an autonomous subject is. There is no point to even try thinking about it, as we do not have the language to describe it. It’s as if the embryo in the mother’s womb were trying to theorize how the world works. While it’s inside, it knows the world only through the “interface” of the mother. In its own reality, it’s warm, and it’s just the embryo and the mother. It doesn’t have the language. And when it 33. While Vernadsky was also a philosopher, he distinguished between philosophical and properly “scientific” contexts. He considered his idea of “living matter” to be a strictly scientific term. “The notion of ‘life,’ he writes, “goes beyond ‘living matter,’ extending into philosophy, folklore, religion, and art. All of this is lost in the term ‘living matter’ ” ([1944] 1993b, 304). 34. Vernadsky borrowed the term “psychozoic” from the American physician, geologist, and conservationist Joseph Le Conte (1823–1901). He equates the idea of the “Psychozoic era” with James Dana’s cephalization theory, the latter signifying the increasing concentration of the nervous tissue in the anterior part of the body, from which the head and the brain were formed ([1944] 1993b, 307). See also chapter 2, note 40.

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eventually comes out, it sees that there are so many living beings. It is the same for us: only when we have entered this reality will we be able to see who there is, what kinds of beings there are. If the relevance of Vernadsky’s concepts of the noösphere and Psychozoic era to NeuroNet enthusiasts comes from their theoretical and philosophical implications, another Cosmist thinker inspires them not only through his ideas but also by his very life story. The story of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857–1935), the “forefather” of the Russian space program, is indeed as striking as it is, in some sense, familiar. His biography strongly resembles Fedorov’s—Tsiolkovsky was an autodidact, never got a formal education, lived most of his life in poverty, and yet eventually became one of the most famous people in Russia upon being retroactively coronated the “patriarch” of the Russian space program. The Tsiolkovsky story is canonic for most Russians, yet outside the circles of space buffs, he is relatively unknown abroad. Born in a poor family in the Russian provinces, Tsiolkovsky was the youngest of thirteen children. As he writes in his autobiography, he was a dreamer as a child, even paying his brother to listen to his fantastic tales. He liked to jump from roofs and swings, dreaming of overcoming gravity. At the age of ten, Tsiolkovsky had a formative bodily experience: he became almost completely deaf following a bout of scarlet fever, regressing into a semivegetative state until he was fourteen—at which point he reports experiencing a sudden and all-consuming interest in mathematics, physics, and chemistry, as well as a passion for building machines and devices. He realized that even being deaf, he could learn from textbooks. By the time he was sixteen, his father had started to believe in his son’s unusual talents, and he scraped together enough money to send his son to Moscow to continue his self-education. Living on what was anyway a tiny sum, Tsiolkovsky skimped on everything, including food and clothes, to buy materials needed to conduct his homemade experiments, seriously undermining his health (Tsiolkovsky [1935] 2002). Becoming a regular at the Chertkov Library in Moscow, where Tsiolkovsky was reading everything he could lay his hands on, he met Fedorov, who worked as a librarian there and supplied him with books he requested. Whether they talked about Fedorov’s ideas will always remain a mystery, as well as a subject of heated debate among researchers.35 Indeed, the intersections in their lives 35. As the persistent popular myth has it, Fedorov envisioned the resurrection of ancestors and shared this idea with Tsiolkovsky, and in order to have more space for the resurrected

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are quite striking. Tsiolkovsky mentions Fedorov in his autobiography, calling him a “famous ascetic, a friend of Tolstoy, and a brilliant philosopher.” Fedorov, he wrote, replaced for him “all the university professors” and supplied him with “forbidden books” ([1935] 2002, 23). Eventually Tsiolkovsky passed exams and became a math teacher in Borovsk, at the same school where Fedorov had taught a dozen years before. Soon Tsiolkovsky received a teacher’s position at a church-run women’s school in Kaluga, where he lived to the end of his life, earning the nickname “Kaluga eccentric” (kaluzhskii chudak). Combining his interest in science with his voracious appetite for science fiction and philosophy, while leading a quiet and impoverished life in Kaluga, Tsiolkovsky produced an impressive array of writings, including several science fiction novels. His initial fascination with aeronautics, especially building models of metallic dirigibles and “lighter-than-air” airships, led to his interest in spaceflight. He then moved from science fiction to mathematical calculations for liquid-propellant rockets, producing the first scientific mathematical proof of the possibility of spaceflight in his now classic work, “Issledovanie mirovykh prostranstv reaktivnymi priborami” (Exploration of outer space by means of rocket devices). The piece was unanimously rejected by all of the serious academic publications at the time. But in 1903, Tsiolkovsky managed to get parts of it published in a popular science journal. The publication itself went practically unnoticed. In the conventional narrative, it was only after the Bolshevik revolution that Tsiolkovsky’s work began attracting the attention of the state, with the Bolshevik authorities quick to recognize the importance of space exploration and claiming Tsiolkovsky as a natural genius, whose talents went unappreciated in imperial Russia and could only flourish in the Soviet Union. Siddiqi challenges this “foundational myth of the Soviet space program” (2010, 71). In reality, the government was quite late in recognizing Tsiolkovsky’s contributions. Due to the growing popular fascination with spaceflight in the 1920s, vibrant informal networks of science enthusiasts and popularizers outside the official academy began developing around Tsiolkovsky. By the early 1930s, spaceflight enthusiasts had created a range of research groups and organizations, all supported by volunteers. These amateur activists, who were initially operating not only outside the academy but also in the complete absence of state support, first dreamed of and then conceived, designed, and built “modest rockets.” Motivating the groups was a combined technological ancestors, Tsiolkovsky developed the idea and mathematical formula for spaceflight. There is no evidence, but this reading is very widespread in Russia. See chapter 1.

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and mystical utopianism, and some of the early activists were in correspondence with Tsiolkovsky himself. It was through the vitality of these alternative networks that Tsiolkovsky’s name came to national prominence. GIRD and the first generation of serious space scientists came out of these circles, in particular, the “true” founding father of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev (1906–66), chief designer of the Sputnik and Vostok spacecraft. The very idea of liquid-propellant rockets was “sold” by the amateurs to the state, for which it dovetailed with military needs, leading to the creation in 1933 of the “world’s first wholly state-subsidized project to design and build rockets” (Siddiqi 2010, 115, 43–155). Aware of a growing international competition, Soviet officials were eager to lay claim to the “Russian origins” of the idea of spaceflight, and by the 1960s Tsiolkovsky had been fully canonized as forefather.36 The scientist died nearing eighty in 1935 so did not live to enjoy his high status for long. Neither did he live to see the achievements of GIRD, the launching of the Sputnik, or the first man in space. Precisely this story of “science from below” motivates the NeuroNet enthusiasts. Fully aware of the importance of alternative grassroots networks, they had recently started launching kruzhki (amateur circles, including children’s kruzhki and summer camps) to follow the GIRD model, first learning about and then trying to build primitive BCIs. In some sense, the National Technology Initiative had already succeeded in “selling” the idea of neurotechnologies as the “next frontier” to the Russian state. Similarly to Peskov, who outlined the mythological and structural parallels between the story of the space program and current interests in neurotechnologies at the Foresight School, Luksha draws inspiration and a certain self-deprecatory national pride from the foundational myth of the Soviet space conquest: 36. Fedorovians, who in turn consider Fedorov the true forefather of the space program, recently succeeded in getting Fedorov inscribed in the space pantheon alongside Tsiolkovsky, Gagarin, and Korolev. Gacheva, for example, is closely involved with the Museum of Cosmonautics, as well as with various civil society organizations promoting space exploration as a national idea. One of them, a youth organization called Mir (World), which defines its goal as the “patriotic education of youth through the example of Russian heroes,” created a site called “First in Space,” positioning Fedorov as the originator of Russian space exploration. The history of cosmonautics published on the site starts with Fedorov, citing 1829, the year Fedorov was born, as the inaugural event. The site also includes a reprint of one of Gacheva and Semenova’s brief introductions to Russian Cosmism (Mir, n.d.). As mentioned in chapter 1, the curious fact that Fedorov’s real last name was Gagarin is no coincidence for Fedorovians but a providential sign.

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I mostly read Tsiolkovsky when I was really young, so perhaps he got into my subconscious [na podkorku ushel]. I also lived in Kaluga and then in Borovsk, where he is a real national hero. I think it’s a really awesome and purely Russian story. Just think about it: he’s hungry, his teacher’s salary is really low, he grows cabbage in his garden and takes it to the market to sell. But in his head are the rocket designs and plans for “radiant mankind.” Quite a Russian story: one is sitting in deep shit but thinking constantly about stratospheric issues—not about how to sell more cabbage but how to save humanity. He understands that he won’t live to see it but nonetheless wants to get something out there, hoping that somewhere, someone will be moved by it. And that’s exactly what happened. . . . He somehow manages to inspire Korolev, who starts thinking about how to build these rockets but then ends up in a gulag.37 The state eventually plucks him from the labor camp, ordering him to build long-range ballistic missiles.38 He does that, all the while dreaming about how to get a man into space. The state finally catches up, and to show Americans who’s the boss, they launch the Sputnik. And then Korolev says, What about sending a man to space? Why? Just for the hell of it. And they do it! From this devastated country, Gagarin goes into space—that’s also a purely Russian story. Because the rest of humanity operates on the following logic: we need to feed everyone and then go into space. But here they say: screw it, we are not going to feed anyone but to space we absolutely must go.39 Luksha breaks off in laughter. More esoterically minded than Peskov, who appeals more to structural and heroic parallels between the space program 37. More specifically, Tsiolkovsky inspired Korolev’s teacher and GIRD’s founder, engineer Friedrich Tsander (1887–1933), with whom he had communicated. 38. Despite his subsequent stature, Korolev’s fate was quite tragic: in 1938, he was arrested and spent six years in prisons and labor camps. 39. With all its Orientalist implications, describing Russia as a land full of “enormous contrasts” and “world-shaking ideas” is as common among insiders as it is among outsiders. Thus American scholar of Russian Cosmism George Young writes about his amazement after he saw in a documentary that Russian cryonics, this “most futuristic of technologies,” was practiced not “in a shiny steel and glass science tower, but in something that looked like a small farm chicken house.” But then again, he adds, it is “so characteristic of Russia, where world-shaking ideas have often stood out so starkly from their backgrounds: great novels from prison camps, rocket science from wooden huts . . . cosmic projects from a humpback trunk doubling as a thinker’s bed.” The personalities he refers to here are Dostoyevsky, Tsiolkovsky, and Fedorov (Young 2012, 234).

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and NeuroNet, Luksha draws inspiration from the mystical utopianism of space pioneers. Often neglected in the official histories of the Soviet space program is the philosophical system Tsiolkovsky developed for himself in addition to his science fiction and scientific works. He called it “cosmic philosophy,” and it betrays a large variety of influences from Theosophy to Hinduism to hylozoism. It is in fact the source from which Tsiolkovsky’s scientific work emanated, as a kind of practical application of what were essentially salvationist theories. Most of these works were suppressed during the Soviet period, published only in the 1990s. Tsiolkovsky shared Fedorov’s concern about the grim prospects for humanity being revealed by contemporary science, which effectively predicted both the end of Earth as a habitable planet with the extinction of the Sun and the eventual end of the universe itself. Fedorov was especially bothered by the theory of “the heat death of the universe” that stemmed from the second law of thermodynamics. In this dire situation, only by emancipating themselves from Earth could humans survive, with spaceflight emerging as the means to prevent human extinction (Hagemeister 2011, 30). “Many people think that I am so preoccupied with the rocket ship and so concerned about its fate because of the rocket ship itself,” Tsiolkovsky said in 1932 to his friend Aleksandr Chizhevskii, a young scientist.40 “It would be the biggest mistake to think that.” For me the rocket is only a means, a method to penetrate into the depths of the cosmos, not a goal in itself. People who think that’s the goal . . . make me into some narrow-minded technician, rather than a thinker. . . . My argument is not that it’s very important just to have rocket ships but that it’s important because they will help humans populate the universe. And I’m making arrangements [khlopochu] precisely for this relocation. Should there be another way for space travel to take place, I will certainly accept it. . . . The most important task is relocating humans from the Earth and populating the cosmos. (Chizhevskii 1977, 24) 40. Aleksandr Chizhevskii (1897–1964) was a Russian biophysicist who founded the science of heliobiology, a study of the Sun’s effects on biological forms, including humans. He proposed the theory that solar flares had influenced the course of human history, with increased sunspot activity being the cause of increased human excitability, resulting in revolutions, wars, and uprisings. Chizhevskii had a close friendship with Tsiolkovsky, helping to popularize his ideas. With Vernadsky and Tsiolkovsky, Chizhevskii is considered part of the “scientific” triumvirate of Russian Cosmism.

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Saving the species was thus one of the goals Tsiolkovsky shared with Fedorov, and neither did he envision humans remaining in the same condition they are in now.41 Similarly to other Cosmists, Tsiolkovsky’s cosmic philosophy contained a distinct evolutionary prerogative: what he intended was a profound transformation of the very substance of the human. He conceived the transformation as the evolution of matter into energy and then into a “higher” form of matter, repeated in an ascending spiral until the distinction between mind and matter is lost, with humanity transforming into a kind of radiation (luchevoe sostoianie). At this stage, humans all become a single organism: The mind (or matter) will know everything, and it will consider the existence of the material or corpuscular world and separate individuals in it unnecessary. Having transformed into the radiant state of a higher order, it will know everything and desire nothing, that is, it will be the state that the human mind considers the prerogative of the gods. The cosmos will become a state of great perfection. (Tsiolkovsky cited by Chizhevskii 1977, 30) “Radiant mankind” (luchistoe chelovechestvo; ibid.) is what Tsiolkovsky called this exalted state of humanity, a term I heard frequently in contemporary transhumanist and Cosmist circles. Pavel Luksha, likewise, is inspired by this idea. Tsiolkovsky, Pavel told me, had influenced him in two ways. First, it was Tsiolkovsky’s idea about “leaving the cradle.” He is referring to the famous dictum: “Earth is the cradle of the mind, but humanity won’t stay in the cradle forever.” Pavel interprets this to mean that we can evolve and that we need to create conditions necessary to transition to the “real space age”—for until we figure out the limitations of our consciousness, we will not be transiting anywhere. Tsiolkovsky, as Pavel sees it, is talking about precisely this evolution. The second influence was the idea of radiant mankind.42 Like Tsiolkovsky, Pavel thinks that we will eventually overcome the limitations of our corporality, but in order to get there, we need to create technical preconditions: “Until we start figuring out what our consciousness is and then translate it into the web, we cannot really deal with it [overcoming of corporality].” Unlike contemporary Fedorovians, who interpret Cosmist thinkers in terms of promoting “organic progress” and object to what they call “prosthetic civilization,” Pavel is not attached to preserving this body. Nor does he have 41. Unlike Fedorov, Tsiolkovsky had eugenicist aspirations: all “lower” life forms, both the ones that suffer and the ones that cause suffering, should be eliminated (2013 [1920]). 42. Cf. Dmitry Itskov’s take on “radiant mankind” and Tsiolkovsky in chapter 1.

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any reservations about technology. The fact that we don’t know much about consciousness or how the mind works today, he took pains to emphasize, should not hinder the development of NeuroNet. On the contrary, it is by developing such technologies that we might begin to unlock these mysteries. “We will eventually get there,” Pavel is convinced, “but we need to start taking steps.” NeuroNet, he proclaimed, is “a step toward radiant mankind.”

Virtually Immortal Although Luksha and Shchoukine do not call themselves transhumanists, they share a number of common transhumanist concerns. The one I found coming up most prominently is “digital immortality” (tsifrovoe bessmertie), a hypothetical concept shared by transhumanists worldwide, which implies the possibility of transferring life across substrates, for example, onto the media considered more “durable” than a human body, such as a computer. The personality inside the computer is conceived as an avatar, which behaves and thinks like the real person and theoretically can continue to exist after death. Many of the transhumanists I met not only believe in but also practice digital immortality by constantly videotaping, audio recording, taking photographs—in short doing anything that can facilitate creating a “digital archive” of themselves. As mentioned in chapter 1, KrioRus’s office has cameras running constantly, recording everything that takes place inside. The memory issue is solved using a specialized compression software. Movement activist Igor’ Trapeznikov almost always has such a camera on his body, recording everything that happens to him (sometimes instead of a camera, it’s a voice recorder). Before video cameras became so widely available, Alexey Turchin, another prominent transhumanist, practiced a similar system even as a child, constantly drawing his surroundings and illustrating connections between them. Now he has tiny cameras running all the time, too. Others have tried recording everything using Google Glass, although battery life in that case remains a hindrance. For my part, never in my life have I been filmed so much or so frequently than in the course of work for this project. Many of the interviews I conducted were simultaneously filmed and recorded by the interview subjects— improving my chances, as they were happy to point out, for resurrection. Fedorovians, although not attached to such advanced technology, likewise believe that the careful archiving of as much documentation as possible about every individual will serve the cause of future resurrection, and they encourage

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a number of preservation and recording practices.43 Both Fedorovians and transhumanists believe that universal genotyping could be helpful in that it would build a unified genealogy of the “currently alive” (Artiukhov 2013; Pride 2013).44 Now digital immortality has made it to the mainstream, with the publication in the New Yorker in April 2014 of an article titled “How to Become Virtually Immortal,” covering the emerging industry referred to as “e-death” (the e, of course, for electronic). Laura Parker writes: Never has the cryonics movement, with its promise of reviving frozen bodies in the future, seemed so old-school. Eterni.me wants to rely on the real substance of twenty-first-century life: online activity. (Parker 2014) Although a number of e-death related services are already in existence— online companies, for example, allowing people to nominate an “executor” to fulfill their digital wishes after death, to send personalized messages to preselected contacts, or to create online memorial pages for loved ones—Eterni.me purports to redefine the burgeoning industry. Still in a beta version at the time Parker was writing, the service proposes preserving the entirety of a person’s online data, such as Facebook, Twitter, and even Google Glass and Fitbit (a wearable fitness tracker), based on which they will create a 3D digital avatar. Clients will be encouraged to “train” their digital avatars while they are still alive, inputting vocabulary, conversational patterns, pictures, videos, and other information, resulting in the avatar being able to “emulate” the person after he or she passes away. In theory, descendants would have the opportunity to forge relationships with ancestors that in the conventional sense had died generations earlier (Parker 2014). At the time the New Yorker article was published, 43. Inspired by Fedorov, the historian Boris Ilizarov started the Narodnyi arkhiv (People’s Archive) in the late 1980s, accepting documents from ordinary citizens. Driven by the idea that each person has the right to be remembered and to be resurrected, this project was envisioned as an alternative to both state archives and research projects to study “the everyday” (povsednevnost’). “Every person has the right to leave traces of their existence on earth,” as Ilizarov put it. The archive accepted all sorts of personal documentation, such as letters, diaries, photographs, and family budgets, regardless whether “this was a good or a bad person, informer to the authorities [donoschik] or a victim of denunciation, famous or needed by no one but his closest relatives.” Because of lack of space and personnel, the archive stopped accepting documents in the mid-1990s (Ilizarov 1998). 44. For an elaboration on contemporary strategies of digital immortality combined with archival practices and genomic technologies, see Bernstein, n.d.b.

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seventeen thousand had people signed up for the beta version. As of 2018, the site is still in beta, with over forty-one thousand people signed up (Eterni.me, n.d.). Meanwhile, in late 2016, a story made news around the world of a Russian woman “resurrecting” her best friend as an artificial intelligence chatbot (Newton 2016). It is easy to write off such pieces as media hype, but I would argue they point to certain persisting notions of the human that are increasingly shared internationally. While touted as revolutionary, the ideas of digital immortality and “uploading,” and also cryonics, do not in fact depart that far from conventional dualist understandings of the human. The body, in this contemporary rendering as well, is but a temporary vessel for “substrate-independent” consciousness (as atheists would have it) or the soul (for religious believers). Presented as cutting-edge technology, the idea of the “uploading” (zagruzka) or “digitizing” (otsifrovka) of consciousness ultimately exhibits the same old dualisms: body and soul, body and consciousness, body and mind—where the material body is secondary to the static immaterial self, which is precisely the type of dualism we recall Regel’son rejecting as an “old, Manichean” one. While not quite so certain of the indispensability of the body as Fedorovians, nor so dismissive about it as supporters of the Avatar projects and cryonicists who freeze the brain, NeuroNet enthusiasts have to grapple with just how much independence there might be for the self from the body. Pavel Luksha has spent some quality time pondering the implications of this idea: With digital immortality, things are not quite clear. Imagine for a moment that it is possible: we are able to produce copies of consciousness—that is, upload an exact copy of the nervous tissue as a digital model. This is similar to the way we can upload a digital copy of a car that will be driven on different roads in different conditions. It’s a very primitive version of how digital immortality might work. In theory, we can capture every cell of the nervous tissue, figure out exactly how all the electrical signals are transmitted, and start running a computer simulation. The appropriate computers don’t yet exist, but I think they are coming. That’s the moment at which a simulation appears and says, “I am Pavel.” It behaves like Pavel, talks like Pavel, etcetera. We now have a Pavel 2. But it’s not clear what it/he is. Most difficult, but also most important, is posing the right questions: once we are able to formulate the right questions about consciousness, perhaps we will start understanding what the substance of the self might be. Perhaps we will even learn to reallocate it. Perhaps we will find out that, theoretically, it can move

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from one substrate to another. Say, for example, I have decided to move to another body. And there I am. If my former body is killed, I will stay there. This is certainly a version of that idea of immortality. But we don’t know how much the substance of the self is tied to the body. Pavel went on to say that the lack of knowledge in regard to issues like these is no reason not to promote NeuroNet. In fact precisely the opposite is the case, as this is exactly the question we would be able to raise only when NeuroNet fully develops. “Probably in about fifty years,” he ventured. “Well, approximately. It took the Internet about twenty to thirty years stumbling along [dokovyliat’] to reach its current state, so probably it will take at least fifty for NeuroNet to arrive.” I asked what seemed to be the obvious question: If we all resettle into our digital avatars, what will happen to our current bodies? Will they just get old and die? Pavel didn’t answer directly. But he did explain his vision of the future of the body: It is possible that we will have multiple bodies. Some could be cyber-bodies, some biological bodies. Some could be animal bodies or, for example, bodies of species engineered for exploring the ocean depths. That’s where we can use the possibility of uploading consciousness from one substrate to another and explore previously inaccessible territories while in them. Or we might have multibodiliness [mnogotel’nost’]. Actually, we already have a kind of multibodiliness. We already see the beginnings: there’s “me” here, for example, and there is “me” in my phone—part of my memory, my knowledge, some other parts of what is mine are currently stored in my phone. Let’s now imagine that I have artificial senses allowing me, for example, to clearly know the levels of hormones in my blood. Or feel the level of radiation in the air. Or something else. I might also have some bodily extensions—maybe I’ll have a special bracket to carry an extra purse. Or think about a cook. When he’s cooking, he puts on a device, a kind of a hand that sticks out from his head to stir egg whites, while his other hand is stirring egg yolks. And then he mixes all of these together. Pavel burst into his contagious laughter, clearly delighted by all the possibilities. And just as quickly he moved on: Next step. Who said that these bodily extensions and sensors should necessarily be attached to the actual body? They could be thousands of kilometers away. For example, my hand can be in Paris while I am in Moscow. Very

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interesting opportunities for sex, because we can do it not only to hands but to different organs [more laughter]. But this might not even be that interesting at this point, because the sheer variety of bodily experiences will so greatly exceed the experiences of classically available “thrills.” Therefore, our bodies will become distributed. One of the bodies could be flying a microdrone, a kind of flying robot that is flying around me, watching out for me, so that I don’t get hit on the head by some bully. And maybe another part of me is on the body of my loved one. This is a bracelet [showing me his wrist] that a certain person wears and that transmits information to me on how she is feeling.45 And I am always connected to that person. So it’s not clear where my body ends and hers starts. We are already moving into the world where bodily boundaries are starting to dissolve. And this is only a technological story so far—we don’t know what’s going to happen to individual consciousness. It might be that personality boundaries will also start getting dissolved. It is precisely this prospect that bothers certain transhumanists about the NeuroNet project. The way Alexey Turchin puts it: While I was reading about NeuroNet, I was thinking: What is not to love? Incredible transhumanist technologies! We will have implants, we will create a $100 billion market, blending everyone into a unified intelligence. The state supports the idea, and many people have gotten united around it. But something doesn’t seem right. . . . Global markets aren’t created by technologies, they are created by needs. The demand for overcoming aging (including brain aging), for life extension, and then for immortality is enormous, and it will bring big money. . . . The Internet in its current version satisfies my communication needs. But what if it’s not penetrating the brain of Vasia Pupkin [the Russian Joe Schmo] that I want? I’m already fed up with his Facebook comments. I want to live as an individual being—eternally and endlessly growing! For this I don’t need NeuroNet: I need medications against old age, I need cryonics, and I need digital immortality. (Turchin 2016) For Luksha and Shchoukine, the goal is precisely the opposite: for them NeuroNet provides a means of challenging the separate, autonomous nature 45. Prototypes of such connections already exist. Kevin Warwick, a controversial cybernetics professor at the University of Reading, “wired his nervous system into the Internet and his wife” by installing implants in his own hand and in his wife’s, so when she moves her arm, he receives a pulse (Greenemeier 2008).

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of individual bodies and identities. “We can use technology to do what we are already doing with our foresight practices,” Pavel explained. And at some point: We will see the emergence of a true collective consciousness, where people have no borders separating their self from the selves of others. Where did this thought come from, how did this emotion arise? In some sense, humanity has had this [a certain degree of collective consciousness] since ancient times, but the degree of intensity of the connectivity will be hugely different with technology. It will be such that people in these communities will feel themselves as one body [emphasis added]. At the NeuroNet foresight, Luksha and Shchoukine offered their prognosis of the future of bodies as follows: By 2025, people will have distributed bodies outfitted with artificial components. The next stage, called “I Change Bodies,” they predict will appear around 2035. By then (through genetic modification) we will have developed a special NeuroNet “access” organ, which will allow for both changing bodies and using multiple bodies following “shared access protocols.” By 2045, so-called digital immortality might arrive, where the mind might exist independently of the body in the Net. Compared to transhumanists, NeuroNet activists are less confident about this possibility, referring to the current lack of knowledge in this area. If it were to occur, it would signify what they term a “black swan event”: an event in human history that is unprecedented and wholly unexpected at the point in time when it occurs, and yet in retrospect upon evaluating the larger context, experts (and in some cases even laypeople) are able to conclude that “it was bound to happen” (Black Swan Events, n.d.). While not opposed to digital immortality, should it turn out to be possible, both Pavel and Timour strongly dislike the idea of physical immortality. Pavel said: I am completely against making physical immortality a central category. I really think it’s a very dangerous notion. In fact, nothing could be worse. Maybe some degree of life extension could be useful, but not more than that. I think that many of the things around which civilization is built hinge on the hidden value of death. People treat themselves and everything around them with more responsibility, knowing they are mortal. They choose their priorities.46 46. Transhumanists and movement sympathizers often defend the opposite point of view.

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Timour also rejected the idea, which is paramount among transhumanists and some Cosmists, that death renders everything meaningless. In response to my questions, when I pressed him on the issue, he ventured: “I personally don’t think that death makes everything meaningless. You know that I am an esoterically minded person. I think quite the opposite: death gives meaning to everything.” Then, with slight annoyance, he added, “I think that meaningless activities are what makes everything meaningless.” Timour was opposed in particular to the idea of resurrection: It seems to me that people who talk about physical resurrection are supposing that the world is, in some sense, a machine. And you can see it in the way they talk. I can’t help but always be struck by it: for all their talk about resurrection and reanimation, you see the signs of this machineness [machinnosti] and deathness [mertvizny] everywhere. For example, how can someone be resurrected? You need to roll back the universe [otkatit’], which is only possible if you consider the universe, as Descartes did, to be a big machine. A linear machine. I would understand if by the resurrection or reanimation of humanity one means not just giving someone an opportunity for a new biological life but to make it possible for everyone to wake up, become awakened [prosnulsia, sebia osoznal]. But what can you do with those who are already dead? They no doubt had their own specific context, their own stories [emphasis added]. Timour confessed to being unfamiliar with Fedorov’s theory in detail. And, indeed, he went on to describe what Fedorovians would deem a mistaken reading, attributing to Fedorov a “resurrection without transfiguration,” that is, without transformation (Timour used the Buddhist term “awakening,” in the sense of a qualitative transformation of consciousness). The Buddhist terms, however, are a worry for both transhumanists and Cosmists. Transhumanists, such as Alexey, decry some of the personal beliefs he hears being espoused by What is remarkable is that such discussions arise in public spaces with impressive regularity and did so throughout the Soviet period (Bernstein, n.d.a; Frumkin 2012). Thus, in response to an interview with philosopher Vladislav Lektorskii, published in Novaya Gazeta under the title “If Immortality Comes, Life Loses Meaning,” one immortality proponent replied: “No, it’s precisely the opposite.” For immortals, who could still die, say, from an accident, “every movement becomes full of meaning, because any stupidity or chance could deprive them of immortality. It’s the mortals who don’t care about anything [smertnym vse pofigu], it is they who need to be convinced of eternal life beyond the grave, so that the one before the grave can have any meaning” (see the original interview in Tokareva 2015).

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NeuroNet enthusiasts. “I won’t name names,” he wrote, “but some activists there believe in Buddhism and the transmigrations of souls” (Turchin here is confusing Buddhism, which postulates the no-self notion as its central dogma, with the Hindu idea of reincarnation). The body connected to NeuroNet via cyborg extensions undergoes a dissolution of physical boundaries in a sense, but the dissolution can extend to personality as well. For Alexey the issue is not being attached to the biological body per se, but he is not ready to share or blend his personal and unique self with others. He is even less inclined to believe that the self might not even exist. And one thing he was not mistaken about is the influence evident among the NeuroNet creators of certain Buddhist ideas—it is not the transmigration of souls but the demonstration that the self is an illusion. Their hope is that NeuroNet can help clarify the issue. As Luksha said to me: “In terms of subjectivity, I’m in agreement with Buddha and Lacan: I think the self is a big neurosis. And I think anyone who witnesses how this self is being constantly constructed and reconstructed for specific purposes will become a little bit of a Buddhist, understanding that the self is an illusion. . . . Within NeuroNet, it might be that people who have not realized this might not be able to join certain neuro-collectives, for example, ones that are more advanced in complexity, because it would be like running with weights attached to your legs.” Unlike other models of human immortality—as advanced by transhumanists, Fedorovians, and biologists of aging—NeuroNet’s vision might be closer to the progressive European utopias exemplified in the writings of H. G. Wells, Julian Huxley, J. B. S. Haldane, and Olaf Stapledon. For Wells and Huxley, “it was immortality of the human race itself, not that of individual humans, that was at stake, and it was a goal worthy of individual sacrifice” (Adams 2004, 52). At the same time, NeuroNet might be equally reminiscent of the notion of the communal mind advanced by Haldane and Stapledon, where the idea was to provide a way for people to relate and join “with the universe in some spiritual way” (ibid., 53). Although Russian utopianism as a whole frequently arises in comparison to these visions, I argue that what makes it truly distinctive is its elaboration of the relationship between the person and the collective—as well as deep reflection on what collectivism is and should be. NeuroNet might be the one project that draws most on the collectivist visions of the most divergent immortalist predecessors, in this case, Fedorov and Bogdanov. While biologists of aging and transhumanists tend to invoke Bogdanov as a pioneer of physical rejuvenation and an early biohacker, the aspect of his vision of physiological collectivism they find most appealing

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involves the blending of self with others. On the one hand, any such collectivism would appear to be incompatible with the very distinctive strain of Russian Orthodox personalism, which has “deep roots in the Eastern Christian world” and is at the heart of the Russian religious thought of the early twentieth century (Kornblatt and Gustafson 1996, 17). Indeed, the vision of the “noself,” or even the “shared self,” is completely unacceptable for Fedorovians, for whom the union of the unique body with its unique soul/personality forms the very core of their belief. Such personalism drives their concern for the immortality of each individual, not just the survival of the species. Fedorovians disapprove of what they call “Eastern impersonalism,” which they perceive as the dissolution of the individual self into a kind of cosmic principle. Strikingly, it is this same Christian personalism that is to be seen underlying secular and sometimes even militantly atheist versions of transhumanism, as expressed in Turchin’s desire to “live as an individual being—eternally and endlessly growing.” Despite this similarity, however, Fedorovians will never get behind the idea of digital immortality, since the absence of the body makes an incomplete human. On the other hand, while transhumanists might share the Fedorovians’ personalism in their common critique of NeuroNet, there is one aspect of the NeuroNet project that makes it closer to Fedorovians than they might perceive. Unlike Bogdanov, who invoked physiological collectivism as a way to undermine the “bourgeois” idea of self, Fedorovians draw on centuries of discussion inside Eastern Orthodoxy concerning how such a self might coexist with others. They are interested in preserving individual personalities, but they also strive for what Fedorov calls “multi-unity” or “all-unity” (mnogoedinstvo or vseedinstvo),47 which might be better translated as “unityin-multiplicity,” where personalities will be neither fused nor separated (in Fedorov’s words, they will exist neslianno-nerazdel’no, not-blended, not-fused). “People are scared to feel themselves to be part of a single body,” Pavel said. “They describe it as a classic dystopian scenario. They say: it will be like an anthill, we will all be like insects. A hive-mind” (cf. Frederic Jameson on the loss 47. Fedorov emphasizes that it is “vse-edinstvo, not vsio-edinstvo,” the one vowel in Russian making the difference between “everyone-unity” and “everything-unity,” which Fedorov claims is the difference between the “abstract unity of everything” and the “unity of personalities.” The example of this kind of unity for Fedorov was always the Trinity (Fedorov [1906] 1995b, 90). See essays in Kornblatt and Gustafson’s edited collection (1996) to see how other Russian religious philosophers elaborated on the idea of “pan-unity.”

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of bourgeois individuality as one of “the greatest anti-utopian themes” [2005, 7]). The authors of the NeuroNet idea, however, envision the collective mind as the source of different spiritual potentialities: from enabling more efficient communication to removing barriers between people to letting go of individual corporeality to be united into one single organism. Yet the NeuroNet ideal is not the hive mind but something like mnogoedinstvo, a way of being with others without either separating or blending. Such being in the world is required for overcoming death and paves the way to it.

C onc lu s ion

Time. Space. Life.

“I never thought I’d be studying time. I was just reading Fedorov,” said Gennadii Aksenov, whom we briefly met in chapter 2. He was making a joke in an effort to defuse a tense situation. I was once again at the Fedorov Society’s seminar, this time part of the yearlong speaker series “Space and Time in the History of the 20th Century.” That day Aksenov, a tall, lean man of seventy-seven, long-time friend of Svetlana Semenova, and member of the society, was the main speaker. His lecture was on the notions of time and space in the works of the geochemist Vladimir Vernadsky, a prominent figure in the Cosmist pantheon. Aksenov is a historian of science who has made a career of studying Vernadsky, and he is the author of a volume devoted to the scientist in the long-running book series, spanning three centuries in Russia, titled Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh liudei (Life of remarkable people).1 Aksenov said it again: I was reading Fedorov over and over. And I just could not understand. What does it mean that the dead will be resurrected? That we will give birth to our fathers instead of children? What will happen to time? Will it go backward? And then someone mentioned to me that Vernadsky had written something about time. I started reading him and ended up with a complete revolution in consciousness. Everything turned upside down.

1. Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh liudei (known by its abbreviation ZhZL) series runs from the 1890s, and it happens that Aksenov’s volume, published in 2001, was the one thousandth book in the series. This event was celebrated in the State Duma, with Putin giving a speech praising the series as the “bestseller of the century” that would be “familiar to any educated person.” 211

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Aksenov reminisced on the exact moment of his epiphany at the Lenin State Library in the Soviet Union.2 He remembered the moment vividly, as is often the case in such epiphanies: he left the grand wood-paneled reading room with its iconic green lamps and went for a stroll in a corridor. “It’s a good thing I was already quite old. This idea, that ‘time is life,’ I would not have tolerated when I was young. And I mean it literally,” he added. “Vernadsky said that even if we create life in a test tube, we cannot create the most important thing: we cannot launch time. And then I understood: time exists only in the living [v zhivom]. There is no other time and no absolute time.” I had just started to ponder the implications of Aksenov’s claim when a gray-haired man in the audience, looking quite distraught, cried out. “I want to know,” the man said severely, “your definitions of the following three concepts.” The man sounded rather agitated. “Time. Space. Life. I ask that you give me an exact definition! A definition for which you will be fully responsible. Answer for your words. Time. Space. Life. Thank you.” If Aksenov looked a bit startled by the outpouring of metaphysically driven aggression, he did not miss a beat. “You cannot define life,” he replied. “You can only describe it. Time is a change of conditions in the living [smena sostoianii v zhivom]. It does not exist separately from space, so it should be called spacetime.” He hesitated, calmly composing his thoughts. “As to space, well, the most elegant definition is that of Newton who said that ‘space is a sensorium of God’ . . . but it is rather difficult to work with such a definition.” He chuckled briefly, then became serious again. “Space is the interior space of the organism, bundled with time. Since it is the living [zhivoe] that generates time and space, time exists only in the living.” With this the speaker had returned to the phrase he uttered just before being interrupted by the angry audience member. In this formula, that time is life, Aksenov is drawing on the long-standing distinction between biological time (internal time in living organisms) and physical time (which in its Newtonian guise is external and absolute, but the Einsteinian form understood by contemporary physics is determined by the external conditions of matter and energy). While physical time can be registered by a clock, internal time is defined by the rhythms of the human body, as well as its growth and aging. Pushing the distinction further, Aksenov proposed that living things have their own interior space-time (vnutrennee prostranstvo-vremia). Although he did say earlier that life is impossible to define, a provisional definition derived from his logic would cast it as 2. Called the Russian State Library since 1992.

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something that is able to generate its own interior space-time.3 The critical point to understand, Aksenov went on, is that the existence of physical, absolute time is not a proven fact. That would mean that time exists only in relation to living things. Biological time is all there is.4 The question posed by Aksenov, in asking whether time can run backward or whether time that is not biological can have any significance for humans, is far from trivial and is, in fact, central to all of the diverse projects of the human represented in this book. Here I ask in conclusion: If we take seriously the ontologies under exploration here, rather than relegating them to the status of ethnographic curiosities, does that entail seeing anew the familiar concepts of time, life, and the human? And, returning to the question I posed in the introduction: What kinds of politics, ethics, and metaphysics do we see enabled and disabled in this process? Consider, for example, the notion of biological time and its relation to aging, the body, and what we understand as 3. On the idea that living systems make their own space-time, see the work of von Uexküll, who in turn acknowledges the influence of his fellow countryman, nineteenth-century Baltic German biologist Karl Ernst von Baer, on his notion of time as “a product of the subject” ([1934] 2010, 70). Baer is considered to have been a major influence on non-Darwinian Russian theoretical biology (for example, Lev Berg [see introduction, note 23], whose evolutionary theory of “nomogenesis” some Fedorovians subscribe to). On the Russian “post-Darwinian” or “non-neo-Darwinian” approach and its Western counterparts, see Brauckmann and Kull 1997; Kull 1999. 4. Aksenov has his own theory of time based on his particular reading of Vernadsky (Aksenov 2000). As the historian and philosopher of science George Levit and colleagues note, Vernadsky’s notion of space and time must be understood in the context of his larger thought, especially his notions of the living and non-living (inert) matter (zhivoe i kosnoe veshchestvo), biosphere, and entropy (Levit, Krumbein, and Grübel 2000; Vernadsky 1975). Vernadsky was particularly interested in the issue of irreversibility of time, “temporal asymmetry,” concluding that time manifests itself differently in living and inert matter. While biological time is always irreversible, physical time does not have to be. Levit and his coauthors argue that Aksenov has taken an “extreme view,” because he extrapolates the temporal asymmetry that Vernadsky had in mind only for the biosphere to the entire universe: “If one would, nevertheless, try to interpret the temporal dissymmetry from a more general perspective, one could arrive at the conclusion that the whole universe is temporally dissymmetrical due to the presence of life. This extreme view is represented by G. Aksenov, who argues that, according to Vernadsky, living matter is the only fundamental cause of irreversibility of time in the universe” (Levit, Krumbein, and Grübel 2000, 391). Vernadsky defines biological time more broadly than internal rhythms of the organism, including, besides the time of an individual being, time of changing generations and evolutionary time (1975). Biological time in this context is distinguished from psychological time, a perception of time by the individual.

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“life” more generally. Physicists may still be looking for the “arrow of time” in the “time-invariant” laws of classical physics, but biologists have always known of time’s irreversibility, so easily seen in such processes as evolution, growth, and aging.5 Similarly to humans, all living organisms in the sense of plants and animals appear to follow continuous and unidirectional trajectories: they are born, mature into adults, reproduce, and die. It is precisely this ontological order defined by the relentless march of time’s arrow from birth to death that the diverse seekers of life extension and immortality we have encountered in this book—Fedorovians, cryonicists, followers of Russia 2045, biologists of aging, and NeuroNet designers—have all attempted to challenge. They asked: Can biological time that governs living and dying be slowed down or arrested? Can it be reversed? Must it be continuous? Can it be interrupted? As biology itself is being transformed from “the scientific study of being into a technology of doing, building, and engineering” (Franklin and Lock 2003, 14), at stake in the competing ontologies are particular biopolitical projects of remaking life and death. The attention lavished on the question of time in Russian theoretical biology is remarkable. Since the 1980s, biologist Aleksandr Levich has been leading a biweekly seminar on the study of time at Moscow State University. The interdisciplinary study of time has even been granted the status of a specialized science called temporology (temporologiia). But it is specifically biological time that fascinates biologists of aging. Alexey Olovnikov, a Russian biogerontologist and theoretical biologist, and former doctoral student under Skulachev, writes that unlike physical time, which is continuous, biological

5. The term “arrow of time,” which refers to the fact that time appears to have directionality and that its flow is irreversible, was coined by the British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington in his book The Nature of the Physical World ([1928] 2005). Physicists tell us that time is characterized by its fundamental “asymmetry,” a kind of radical inequality between past and future. Time flows from past to future. We remember the past and not the future. We can alter the future but not the past. Nevertheless, what seems obvious to any layperson, that time flows only in one direction, from past to future, has so far eluded any actual proof by theoretical physicists. The laws of classical mechanics are known as “time-reversible” or “timeinvariant,” as they technically allow the same process to happen in both directions. Anthony Zee, a physicist at UC Santa Barbara, illustrates temporal reversibility with what he admits is a “silly” example by asking the question: What happens when we play a video of a home run in baseball backward? The ball flies in from outside the stadium, moves toward the bat and hits it. Although this is unlikely to happen, physicists say, it is not impossible. It is not forbidden by the laws of physics (Zee 1992).

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time can “flow intermittently, with stops.” The flow of biological time can be slowed down, accelerated, and even “ ‘frozen’ artificially” (Olovnikov 2006, 56).6 And some nonhuman animals to which transhumanists and Fedorovians often turn for guidance do just that. Consider, for example, the phenomenon of cryptobiosis (in Russian widely known as anabiosis),7 a state in which most or all metabolic activity slows down or even comes to a halt—a life with no signs of life (Roosth 2014). Some organisms are able to enter cryptobiosis in response to extreme conditions, such as desiccation, freezing, or oxygen deficiency. A microscopic animal called a tardigrade, a transhumanist “species of hope” often featured on their T-shirts along with naked mole rats, is known to survive extreme conditions such as temperatures close to absolute zero or –459° F, extreme pressure, dehydration, and radiation. The first animals shown to survive in outer space, tardigrades are able to reversibly suspend their metabolism by going into cryptobiosis. Once in cryptobiosis, they turn into powder and can survive without any sign of life for many years. When rehydrated by rain, dew, melting snow, or the like, tardigrades return to their active state within hours and sometimes within minutes (Miller 2011). While showing “no visible signs of life,” cryptobiotic organisms are not dead (Keilin 1959, 150, emphasis added). Are they alive? Can a living organism display no signs of life (for example, metabolism) and still be considered “living”? Whether they are alive or whether we need to introduce a “third” state of cryptobiosis 6. Olovnikov is known among biologists for anticipating the “telomere theory of aging” in 1966, for which three American biologists received the Nobel Prize in 2009. Michael Fossel, professor of clinical medicine at Michigan State University and author of two popular science books on aging, mentions Olovnikov’s critical role in the discovery of telomerase and the latter’s potential to reverse human aging (Fossel 2015, 25–27). On biological time being “suspendable” and “interruptible,” see Landecker 2010, 228. 7. While referring to the same phenomenon, these two terms have different etymologies. Russian scientists use the term “anabiosis” introduced by the German scientist Wilhelm Preyer in 1880 (Semashko 1928). Coined from Greek, “anabiosis” literally means “return to life” or “life again,” while “cryptobiosis” means “latent life” (Keilin 1959). The Russian usage emphasizes resurrection, as if it were a revival from the dead, while the English one seems to focus on the fact that a given organism was never quite dead but had latent life. Shmidt, however, considered “anabiosis” unsuitable for this very reason and proposed “abiotic” as the more appropriate term (Shmidt [1923] 1948, 6n1). The phrase “suspended animation” is mostly used in Russian in translations from another language. “Suspended animation” was rendered in Russian as priostanovka s ozhivleniem (suspension with revival), priostanovka zhiznedeiatel’nosti (suspension of life), or descriptively: vremennoe prekrashchenie vsekh zhiznennykh funktsii (temporary suspension of all life functions).

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as an alternative to being either dead or alive, cryptobiotic organisms challenge traditional definitions of life as a continuous process with linear temporality. If life can be stopped and then started again, like a wind-up watch mechanism, then continuity is neither a sufficient nor a necessary attribute of being alive. Over the years, cryptobiosis has raised issues about “the relation of life to animation, and of life to non-life . . . with an eye to spontaneous generation, theological reflections about mystical resurrection, boundaries between life and death,” as well as issues related to the origin of life and life beyond earth (Roosth 2014, 58).8 Russian cryonicists believe that anabiosis provides “proof ” that life, biological time, and temperature are interrelated, that life need not be continuous, and that temperature can alter temporalities. As mentioned in the introduction, anabiosis has had a hold on Russian popular imaginaries since the early twentieth century. In Poema anabioza, 1922, the Biocosmist Aleksandr Iaroslavskii proposed the idea of freezing humans, ushering in anabiosis as a “third” state: Let’s take a cart and drive a wedge Between the two worlds of Life and Death See the door open onto a third— Anabiosis —I a rosl avsk i i 1922

As early as 1901 Russian researcher of anabiosis Porfirii Bakhmet’ev (1860– 1913) argued that lowering the temperature of an organism slows down its life (zhiznedeiatel’nost’), expressing the idea that slowing life means slowing time (1901, 2–3). Indeed, Bakhmet’ev’s favorite metaphor for anabiosis was a pendulum clock, which can be stopped with the hand and then released, and it starts again (cited in Krementsov 2013, 79). Bakhmet’ev, who first accidentally came across this phenomenon studying body temperature in butterflies, combined his interests in entomology and biophysics to conduct pioneering experiments freezing and reviving insects, fish, and finally bats, the first mammal in which the process has been used successfully. When Bakhmet’ev’s work was interrupted by his death at the age of fifty-three, Petr Shmidt (1872–1949), a zoologist fascinated with anabiosis, took over the cause, becoming a well-known 8. See also Roosth’s fascinating recent work on the “uncanny triangulations of life, time, and temperature,” as she explores the “Doomsday Vault” (The Global Seed Vault) in Svalbard, an archipelago halfway between Norway and the North Pole, and the “resurrected” anthrax virus that emerged due to the melting permafrost in the Russian Arctic (2016).

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popularizer of his work.9 “Looking at phenomena at the border between life and death, we move closer to understanding the difference between living and dead states of matter,” Shmidt wrote in 1923, arguing that neither vitalism nor mechanicism can explain the phenomenon and ultimately offering a dialectical materialist take on the issue. “We see here a manifestation of a certain dialectic of life: to preserve itself life creates an absence of life, a kind of temporary death” (Shmidt [1923] 1948, 341–43).10 As Bakhmet’ev asserted, research in anabiosis promised to create the “fabulous century-long sleep in humans too” (cited in Krementsov 2013, 74)—and cryonicists believe they are doing just that.11 Although naturally occurring anabiosis does not necessarily involve freezing—animals like tardigrades enter the state of latent life through desiccation—cryonicists believe lab-created 9. While experimentation stalled in the 1920s, the fascination with anabiosis was growing in the public imaginary, inspiring poets, artists, and revolutionaries, as well as science fiction writers (see Krementsov 2013, 88–96 for some fascinating examples of literary experiments with anabiosis). 10. Shmidt believed anabiosis was an evolutionary adaptation of animals living in extreme conditions. For a different but equally fascinating investigation of life in extreme conditions, where the very notion of life is “conceptually stretched,” see Helmreich’s article on “three limit biologies”: artificial life, extreme marine biology, and astrobiology (Helmreich 2011, 677). 11. Bakhmet’ev proved remarkably visionary in suggesting other practical applications of anabiosis, such as the possibility of finding extinct animals and plants preserved in the north of Russia, pointing to the frozen mammoth found in Siberia by the Imperial Academy of Science expedition in 1901 (Krementsov 2013, 74, 79). Today “de-extinction” has become a rapidly growing field, provoking equal excitement in related academic and biotech circles, with geneticist George Church at Harvard being the most vocal American proponent. (Another American supporter is Stewart Brand and his Long Now Foundation.) In Russia, plans for the “resurrection” of the woolly mammoth are linked to an experimental nature reserve in northeastern Siberia called Pleistocene Park. The reserve’s primary mission is not species resurrection but mitigating the effects of global warming and reversing environmental change by re-creating the northern subarctic ecosystem that existed in the Pleistocene epoch. Nevertheless, the underlying hypothesis is that populating the park with large herbivores will eventually cause the tundra to revert to the grasslands of the Pleistocene period, preventing further melting of permafrost. Some large animals, such as reindeer, wild horses, yaks, a European bison (wisent), and muskox, have already been introduced, and American bison are expected to be released into the park in the near future. Should the mammoth de-extinction project ever go ahead, the “resurrected” animals would also be introduced to the park (Andersen 2017; Kendrick 2013; Zimov 2005). On “de-extinction” as “biological time travel” and on the promises of synthetic biology, see Roosth 2017, 150–73. On freezing as a “temporal prosthesis,” see Radin 2017 and Radin and Kowal 2017. The most obvious translations of anabiosis into biotechnologies are cell, tissue, and organ banking, blood transfusion, and assisted reproduction.

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anabiosis to be a direct predecessor of cryonics. During my initial visit to KrioRus in the summer 2013, one of the first things Valerija showed me was a wellworn hardback book with a yellow cover, which turned out to be a rare 1934 edition of Shmidt’s almost four-hundred-page oeuvre (originally published in 1923), which her partner Danila had recently procured. “It is amazing to hold something that is ninety years old in your hands. And something that is part of cryonics’ history, no less,” she declared, establishing a straight line from the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russian experiments in freezing and reviving animals in the lab to the humans cryopreserved today in KrioRus’s storage near Moscow. Despite the obvious differences between freezing worms and humans, temporality in the case of cryopreservation is similarly interrupted by a suspension of what seems to be neither life nor death. Cryonicists often talk about their future life “after reanimation” as a second life, which will be much longer and possibly of indefinite duration. Adherents often postpone important projects, such as having children or getting additional education, until this second life (cf. Romain 2010). Are the cryopreserved, then, alive, dead, or in-between? As one American cryonicist has noted, based on hope and belief in future technologies, cryonics is rather ambivalent about whether the patients are alive or dead. Cryonics means more than just doing the best job you can to freeze someone. Cryonics means continuing to care for people even when you have no idea how to revive them, or whether they are living or dead. Cryonics is about giving people the “benefit of the doubt” about future technology. (Wonk 1996) Cryonicists distinguish what they do from any medical procedure involving suspended animation, precisely because for the latter we have clearer criteria of life and death. Suspended animation, they insist, is distinct from cryonics, because it does not require any such “benefit of the doubt”: [Suspended animation] is something that immediately and demonstrably works. The medical use of suspended animation will still require optimism that diseases can be cured. But there will be no uncertainty about whether the cryopreserved person is living or dead. (ibid.)12 12. In 2014, the FDA approved a clinical trial to put critically wounded gunshot victims who would not survive unless the surgeons had more time in a state of suspended animation. The protocol was designed specifically for injuries that could potentially be treatable, if there were more time. As of yet, the procedure has only been tested on animals, induced into what

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Still, the hope that those stored in liquid nitrogen are more alive than dead is palpable among caretakers of the cryopreserved, who speak of them as “patients” rather than “bodies” and certainly not “corpses.” Some cryonicists say that even if their patients might be temporarily dead for now, they are still potentially alive in the future. Their personhood, as well as the very matter they are made of, is, in other words, speculative (Farman 2013). Not only biological time can be discontinuous and reversible, but its flow is not universal among living beings, as it differs from one to another. Biologists of aging have long been preoccupied with the fact that different species have different life spans. An amoeba lives half an hour, a snail seven years, elephants seventy to eighty years, turtles up to two hundred years, and whales might live even longer. Some plants live only one year, while others, for example, certain pine trees, can live thousands of years. While trees appear to be the real champions of longevity, there are species that can not only live indefinitely but also age in reverse. The jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii, now known as the “immortal jellyfish” or the “Benjamin Button jellyfish” (Rich 2012), was shown to do precisely this. Instead of aging and dying, this jellyfish was growing younger and younger and eventually was able to revert to the stage of a polyp, the very onset of its development, and then start growing again (Piraino et al. 1996). It is as if humans, in their old age, reverted to the stage of the fetus, which then grew into a new human, with the cycle repeating itself indefinitely. Immortality in the human case, however, is largely semantics, as noted by Nathaniel Rich is alternately called “suspended animation,” “therapeutic hypothermia,” or most recently the somewhat unwieldy “emergency preservation and resuscitation.” It is well known that cold “buys” time by slowing metabolic reactions in the body. There are numerous cases of people falling into icy lakes and rivers and surviving after spending hours in the water, as their metabolic processes had slowed due to sudden hypothermia. In the trial doctors plan to pump icy saline solution into the body, bringing the patient’s brain temperature down to the low fifties Fahrenheit. By cooling the body and slowing the internal, biological time of the patient, surgeons are expected to gain perhaps an hour to work on sewing the wounds. The patient will then be resuscitated. The researcher leading the trial warns, “It’s important to recognize that these patients are not dead. We’re trying to save them still. . . . What we’re doing is using science to try to come up with a new way to save people who are dying in front of us” (trauma surgeon Samuel Tisherman, cited in Griggs 2014; see also Twilley 2016). Yet, at least under the current definitions, a patient with no circulation, no pulse, or no brain activity is more “dead” than “alive.” What such liminal states of the body point to is the way technology is further dismantling the rigid boundary between life and death (Franklin and Lock 2003; Lock 2001). Such states also suggest the possibility that bodily temporalities can be discontinuous and interrupted.

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in the New York Times Magazine, because the new human would technically be a clone, and the previous one would be gone—the new person would have the same cells but “a new brain, a new heart, a new body” (Rich 2012). Cryptobiotic organisms like tardigrades are causing us to rethink assumptions, such as that life is invariably a continuous process, by showing us a form of interrupted temporality. And the jellyfish, for its part, challenges the arrow of biological time, the notion that biological time can only flow forward. If aging, which is governed by the biological clock, could be reversed, then the life cycle going from birth to growth and adulthood and finally old age and death would be disrupted as well.13 If the selfsameness of a new tardigrade’s identity is a matter of some dispute, the stakes are raised considerably in the debates about human identity, as in the case of cryopreserved humans or those who want to be “uploaded” into cyberspace. The Russian Orthodox cleric discussed in chapter 1 denied that a person “awakened” from cryopreservation would be identical to the one who died years or centuries earlier. From his point of view there can be no question of identity, as the person’s immortal soul will have left the body upon death and will not return into the technologically resurrected body. In the cleric’s telling, the awakened being would be a “golem.” Only upon universal resurrection can the soul return to the body, and it is not the old body but a new, transformed, and glorified body after the second coming. If the coupling of the right soul with the right body is key for the Orthodox Christian view of resurrection, the debate in the “mind-uploading” community revolves around whether the mind being uploaded, as in the Itskovian Body C, is the same as the original or, as skeptics claim, “just a copy.” NeuroNet enthusiasts, while not focused on immortality as a goal, at the same time have nothing against eternal life in cyberspace, which might result as a side effect of their collective consciousness project. As futuristic as it may sound, digital immortality is already becoming in some sense realized, as the dead lead their postmortem lives on social media. Some regard that sort of immortality as undesirable, as manifested in the discussion about the need for posthumous Internet privacy laws, which are already enforced under the European “right to be forgotten” law passed in 2012 (Baets 2016; Gibbs 13. In some religious traditions, concepts like rebirth and reincarnation challenge the traditional notion of the life cycle, as such concepts imply that death does not signify the complete annihilation of the self, and children arrive not as blank slates but already inhabited by their ancestors’ thoughts and personalities (Gupta 2002).

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2016).14 While some want to be forgotten, others want to be remembered. Yet others want to remember their loved ones. When the Russian start-up entrepreneur Eugenia Kuyda suffered the death of her best friend, a fellow entrepreneur, promoter, and bon vivant in the Moscow club scene who died in an unfortunate accident, she and his numerous friends brainstormed on how to commemorate him. It had to be something special—a coffee-table book about his life or a memorial website. But to Kuyda none of this seemed adequate. Assembling a large archive of her friend’s photos and text messages sent to various people over the years, she rebuilt him as an artificial intelligence that mimics a person’s speech patterns. So she has a chatbot whom she can talk to (Newton 2016).15 If anything reflects our current notions of the human, it is the stubbornly dualist conception of the body and mind, inscribed within persistent hierarchies, with the body always an inferior, unreliable, or even optional container for the mind. It is to confront such views that early Fedorovians composed their treatise on smertobozhnichestvo (death apotheosis), tracing the roots of such a dualism back to an erroneous interpretation of scripture in the early days of Christianity. While many NeuroNet enthusiasts claim to be “agnostic” as to whether disembodied digital immortality might ever be possible, for Fedorovians, life without a body, a “substrate-independent” life, is unthinkable. For them the body stands as a living, vital physical link to the generations of ancestors awaiting resurrection. Transhumanists, for their part, insist on “morphological freedom,” 14. The rule is most often applied to amnestied convicts and public figures managing their reputation online and is so far enforced only in the European Union (EU), including Google browsers that get opened within the EU. In the United States, the right to freedom of speech generally trumps the right to privacy, although that judgment is coming increasingly to be questioned. A precedent was created in the United States, when gruesome death images of a teenage girl who died in a car crash went viral. It took five years of fighting for the family to win a verdict to remove all the images (Toobin 2014). The case was featured in a fascinating, stylized vignette in Werner Herzog’s recent documentary exploring the history of the Internet and what it means to be connected today (Herzog 2016). 15. While some criticized the bot for being “just a program,” others found the resemblance of conversation style uncanny and would spend hours chatting with the bot. Some, including the dead man’s mother, found talking to the bot therapeutic, while others felt it prolonged their grieving. In a striking life-copying-art feedback loop, shortly after her friend’s passing, Kyuda saw a 2013 episode of the near-future drama series Black Mirror, called “Be Right Back.” A special service creates a digital avatar of the main character’s fiancé, who died in a car crash. The company uses the fiancé’s online social media activity, including audio to re-create his voice, and then implants his personality in an android (Black Mirror 2011; Newton 2016).

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emphasizing one’s full right to modify one’s body in any direction and disparaging “carbon chauvinism”—the assumption that life must necessarily be carbon based. “Morphological freedom,” in the transhumanists’ formulation, is the extension of the right of self-ownership to the right to modify one’s own body (Sandberg 2013). For Fedorovians, but also for traditional Russian Orthodox believers, as well as for some cryonicists and biogerontologists, it is possible that time can slow down, freeze, or even run backward. But unless full bodily immortality is achieved, time will retain a palpable significance, manifest in the relentless aging of the body. Time always works through the living body, or in Aksenov’s words, “time is life.” For bodiless or digital beings, whether the Itskovian Body D or a NeuroNet avatar, with consciousness separated from the body, time will have no meaning. In fact, “digital immortality” does not quite capture the idea. While immortality means life without death, eternity is life without time, or life in a timeless realm, where, as Fedorovians and some Christian eschatologists hoped, “time will be no more” (Rev. 10:5–6).16 While some struggle for the right to be forgotten, Fedorovians, in projects like the People’s Archive, try to give everyone—and not only famous people— an equal chance to be remembered. “Every human carries a museum inside himself,” Fedorov wrote, and the same phrase—Vsiakii chelovek nosit v sebe muzei—became the title for a series of events in the museum-library beginning in 2015, a kind of oral history project, where anyone could come share his or her memories.17 Remembrance and preservation are quintessential values 16. In Russian, vremeni uzhe ne budet or vremeni bol’she ne budet. In the King James Bible: “there should be time no longer.” But another very common translation in English, “There will be no more delay,” radically changes the meaning, whereas in Russian “time will be no more” resonates with “death should be no more” toward the end of Revelation (i smerti bol’she ne budet, Rev. 21:4). 17. Fedorov devoted one of his major works to theorizing the museum. One paradox of the museum, he wrote, is that while a complete antithesis of modernity (he notes that in Russian, the phrase sdat’ v arkhiv, v muzei—“to shelve”—has derogatory connotations), museums expanded exponentially in the nineteenth century, with the “century of progress” casting off “useless” objects and practices. Another paradox, he noted, is that while officially we value only “the useful,” we still go to great efforts to preserve “the useless.” It is impossible to destroy [the institution of] the museum: like a shadow it accompanies life, like a grave, it stands behind everything that is living. Every human carries a museum inside himself, carries it against his own will, like a dead appendage, like a corpse, like his conscience pangs, since preservation is a key law, which preceded the human. Preservation is a quality not only of the organic, but also of inorganic nature, and in particular—of human nature. (Fedorov [1913] 1995g, 372)

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to Fedorovians, which, unlike the long-term goal of resurrection, can be practiced here and now. To be forgotten for them is to give in to the relentless forces of entropy, which will eventually engulf all life, as the universe itself might disappear without a trace. Religion, culture, art—these are ultimately attempts to fight death, to create order out of disorder, as we hear from Anastasia Gacheva when she says, “Fedorov was not worried about his own death, so much as he was worried about the death of others. And not only human death.” The idea that the universe might one day disappear haunted Fedorov’s mind, as it did many of his contemporaries in the advent of the mid-nineteenth-century theories about the ultimate fate of the universe. The idea of entropy and the formulation of the second law of thermodynamics, stating that entropy in a closed system never decreases, led to the inflammatory theory of the “heat death of the universe.” Formulated independently in 1850 and 1851 by the German physicist Rudolph Clausius and the Scottish mathematician and physicist William Thompson (later Lord Kelvin), the second law was immediately given cosmological and metaphysical readings, especially after Clausius extended its implications from physical closed systems to the future of the entire universe. As entropy increases, the argument went, energy will dissipate, and the universe will cool off and become too cold to sustain life (Kragh 2008). This secular eschatology suggesting a hollow and finite universe created a crisis of meaning in intellectual circles around Europe, perhaps best captured by Dostoyevsky in the lament of a character named Arkadii Dolgorukii, which Gacheva likes to quote:18 The institution of the museum, for Fedorov, is a shrine to the relics of the ancestors, but an incomplete one, because ultimately museums should involve not only preservation and research on ancestral relics but also the resurrection of the ancestors. Museums should be moved to be near cemeteries so they can be used for purposes of resurrection based on the information about ancestors buried there. Cemeteries should be likewise turned into museums (although the grave is always “above the museum” [Fedorov (1913) 1995g, 371]). An ideal settlement for Fedorov would include a cemetery, a temple, a museum, an astronomical observatory, and a school. Museums should all have an astronomical observation tower (vyshka) built on top. Ideally, these would be blended institutions: temple-museums, temple-schools, all with observation towers (Fedorov [1913] 1995h, 297). As Gacheva pointed out when a small Orthodox temple was opened in the neighborhood of the museum-library in southern Moscow in the spring of 2017, “We already have a museum, a library, a school, and now, a temple—now all we need is an astronomical observatory!” 18. For a fascinating account of the religious, cosmological, and ideological contexts of the second law’s reception in Europe, see Kragh 2008. Many interpreted the idea of the heat death of the universe as proof that, since the universe had an end, it must have had a beginning,

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Why should I unequivocally love my neighbor or your future mankind, which I’ll never get to see, which won’t know about me and which in turn will turn into dust, leaving not a single trace or memory behind (time counts for nothing here), when the Earth will in turn become an icy rock and will fly off into the void with an infinite number of similar icy rocks? In short, you can’t imagine anything more pointless! . . . Tell me, why should I be noble, especially if nothing lasts beyond a moment? (Dostoyevsky [1875] 2016, 60) According to Gacheva, such “logical suiciders” (logicheskii samoubiitsa), people trying to use logic to deduce that life has no meaning and is therefore not worth continuing, are common throughout Dostoyevsky’s work. Fedorovians link such pessimism to the general malaise and crisis of meaning in the mid- to late 1800s. Not only was the universe declared finite by physics, but Darwinian evolution had dislodged humans from the pedestal of creation, just as earlier Copernicus removed the Earth from the center of the universe. If prior to the heat death theory, humans could count on at least symbolic immortality, such as continuation of one’s self through children and creative works (Lifton and Olson 2010), the cooling off of the universe left no such hope. Even Darwin was dismayed, finding the thought of “complete annihilation after such longcontinued slow process [of evolution]” “intolerable” (Darwin 1897, 282). This crisis of meaning, as well as the desire to reclaim the vanishing anthropocentrism, lies behind Fedorov’s grandiose utopia. “No, it’s not a utopia!” Gacheva often corrected me, shaking her head. It is a plan of action, a proekt (project, blueprint), something that connects that pointing to a creator. As if foreseeing this development, Engels wrote in a letter to Marx in 1869: “In Germany the conversion of the natural forces, for instance, heat into mechanical energy, etc. has given rise to a very absurd theory . . . that the world is becoming steadily colder . . . and that, in the end, a moment will come when all life will be impossible and the entire world will consist of frozen spheres rotating round one another. . . . I am simply waiting for the moment when the clerics seize upon this theory as the last word in materialism” (Engels cited in Kragh 2008, 135). According to historian of Russian science Loren Graham, the idea of both the “birth” and “death” of the universe was highly unpopular in the Soviet Union: “Just as dialectical materialists did not believe it correct to speak of the ‘birth’ of universe, they dismissed the idea of its ‘death’ ” (Graham 1974, 162). The theory of the heat death of the universe came in for especially heavy criticism, mostly on grounds of the application of the second law to nonclosed systems. Some Soviet scientists postulated “anti-entropic” processes that counteracted the entropic ones—a view that also came from cybernetics (ibid., 500n54).

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which is to that which should be. “The philosophy of Cosmism,” she once added, “is an attempt to return meaning to existence. To return meaning to history. To redeem it.” While certain ideas of nineteenth-century science might have produced nihilistic logical “suiciders,” redemption first came from science as well. And this redemption postulated a key new property of life itself. Since many could not bear the thought of the universe ending with either a whimper or a bang, and given the metaphysical implications of the heat-death theory, the latter was immediately subject to controversy. One phenomenon that scientists had ventured might resist entropy and “defy the message of decay” is biological growth, that is, life itself. Building on earlier ideas about organic processes possibly constituting “an exception” to the second law of thermodynamics, some biologists posited counterentropic vitalist principles.19 Outside of science proper, the idea that life is ultimately “anti-entropic” was developed by an unorthodox French thinker, whom Fedorovians claim as their own, a “European Cosmist”: Henri Bergson. Calling the second law of thermodynamics the most “metaphysical of the laws of physics,” Bergson argued that life, rather than being subject to the second law, was governed by the “law of ectropy,” which is “a kind of anti-entropy, chaos-to-order principle.” Nature, for Bergson, was driven by élan vital (vital force) that had priority over thermodynamics (Kragh 2008, 190–91).20 Another “European Cosmist,” French paleontologist and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who together with Vernadsky attended Bergson’s philosophy seminar in Paris, later argued that “anti-entropy is an effect of chances that are seized, draws a portion of matter in the direction of continually higher forms of structurization and centration” (2002, 302–3).21 Physicist Erwin Schrödinger in his famous short book What Is Life? popularized the term “negentropy” (negative entropy), declaring life to be something that “feeds on negative entropy” (Schrödinger [1944] 2012).22 Finally, the 19. The second law of thermodynamics, however, applies only to closed systems, and if “life” is an “open” system, it falls outside the domain in which the law is strictly applicable. 20. Kragh specifies that the view that the evolution of life forms contradicts the second law of thermodynamics is mistaken and that it was taken up by the new creationism in the 1960s (Kragh 2008, 190n314). Bergson’s ideas had a profound influence on Vernadsky, as well as contemporary Fedorovians. 21. The quote comes from a manuscript dedicated to Julian Huxley, a biologist who coined the word “transhumanism” in his book New Bottles for New Wine (Huxley 1957). 22. The second law of thermodynamics proved an irresistible source of metaphors and concepts for a wide variety of twentieth-century thinkers, from philosophers to computer

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British American transhumanist Max More founded the Extropy Institute, the first transhumanist organization, and in 1990 published the Principles of Extropy, defining transhumanist philosophy. The concept of extropy, More explains, was “used to encapsulate the core values and goals of transhumanism.” Not intended as a technical term but a metaphor, “extropy” was defined as “the extent of a living or organization system’s intelligence, functional order, vitality, and capacity and drive for improvement” (More 2013, 5).23 Returning to the Russian context, Vernadsky mentions “ectropy” as the process of accumulation of “free energy” by the entire biosphere (1991, 172).24 He particularly underlines the importance of green plants in this process, as (most) plants learned how to be autotrophic, transforming non-living elements from their environment through photosynthesis, thus making themselves independent of other living things ([1925] 1993a). Humans should ultimately learn from plants to be autotrophic, so the Cosmist narrative goes, but have so far only fought entropy through culture. In the Russian humanities, a common textbook definition of culture is the “cybernetic” one by the famous Estonian semiotician Yuri Lotman, who considered culture the ultimate “anti-entropic mechanism” (antientropiinoe ustroistvo). For Lotman, as for many cyberneticists, anti-entropy means something like “information”: less entropy means scientists. Schrödinger’s ideas would later become key for the discipline of cybernetics, which was first rejected as a “bourgeois science” and then enthusiastically embraced in the Soviet Union (see Gerovitch 2004 for the fascinating history of the Soviet reception and use of cybernetics). By negative entropy Schrödinger meant the way in which living organisms counteract the forces of disorder and maintain a high degree of organization. Around the same time American engineer Claude Shannon (1916–2001) also borrowed the notion of entropy, but he linked it to the idea of “information,” the basic idea of cybernetics. Synthesizing Schrödinger’s and Shannon’s ideas, the “founding father” of cybernetics, Norbert Weiner, “ingeniously redefined the notion of entropy,” as Gerovitch writes, which now referred to the “degree of uncertainty remaining after the message was received. Greater entropy (noise) now meant less information” (2004, 66). Cybernetics created a new way of exchanging ideas between disciplines, and most important, it facilitated the man-machine metaphors: “living organisms were viewed as thermodynamic macrosystems; the struggle between life and death was reinterpreted as a battle between negative entropy (the source of stability, organization, and order) and entropy (the force of chaos and disorganization)” (Gerovitch 2004, 89). On metaphors in the discussion of “life” and the second law of thermodynamics, see Keller 1995, 43–79. 23. More claims that the term “extropy” was coined by his fellow futurist colleague Tom W. Bell (More 2013, 12). It appears, however, that the term had been independently coined in various fields prior to its first usage in transhumanist discourse, as it was apparently used in a 1967 academic volume discussing cryogenics and then again in a 1978 academic volume on cybernetics (Cordeiro, n.d.). 24. This work was written in 1937–38 but remained unpublished until 1991.

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more information being preserved and transmitted. Yet Fedorovians’ ideas of life could not be further from the cybernetics-inspired equivalencies drawn between man and machine: instead they echo earlier organicist insights of Bergson, Vernadsky, and Teilhard.25 The living, Gacheva points out, need not only dissipate energy but can also accumulate it from the Sun, transforming it into a 25. There is no consistency in the way the notions ectropy, anti-entropy, and negative entropy are used by different thinkers. Quoting Vernadsky, Lotman writes, “Similarly to how the biosphere transforms the non-living into living (Vernadsky), culture, relying on the resources of the surrounding world, transforms non-information into information. Culture is the antientropic mechanism of humanity” (1992, 9). Despite drawing on Vernadsky’s idea of the biosphere, Lotman’s understanding of “anti-entropy” is more similar to Wiener’s than to Vernadsky’s: for Lotman it means information. Indeed, Gerovitch describes how Soviet linguists and philologists of Lotman’s generation, in looking for a more precise language for their disciplines, were heavily influenced by and borrowed from cybernetic concepts (2004, 227–41). Although the question calls for much more extensive research, it appears that the genealogies of the notion of anti-entropy in Russia might make it older than cybernetics, going back to earlier organicist and vitalist usages. While sharing many ideas with Bergson, Vernadsky also cites the German physicist Felix Auerbach, one of the early “objectors” to the second law of thermodynamics as applied to life (Auerbach 1910; Vernadsky 1991, 172). Published in German in 1910, Auerbach’s work was translated into Russian in 1911. While it is cited frequently in Russian, there still appears to be no English translation. Following Vernadsky, philosopher, priest, and polymath Pavel Florensky (whom Fedorovians also include in the ranks of Cosmists) laid out his position, that “the second law of thermodynamics—the law of entropy—taken broadly, is the Law of Chaos. Chaos is being opposed by Logos, the beginnings of ectropy. Culture is a conscious struggle against universal equalization [uravnivanie]. Culture isolates and hinders this equalization process . . . which is death” (Florensky 1994, 39). I would venture to say that the use of the notion of anti-entropy by contemporary Fedorovians (used interchangeably with negentropy) partakes more of this earlier interpretation. That said, cybernetic usages are so widespread in the Russian intellectual discourse that it is possible that the two had become intermixed. Instead of claiming cyberneticians as predecessors to this idea, Gacheva refers to two Russian thinkers, economist Sergei Podolinsky (1850–91) and theoretical physicistphilosopher Nikolai Umov (1846–1915), as originators of what Semenova and she understood as the “anti-entropic nature of life” (1993, 7). Podolinsky treated entropy as a “dissipation of energy”—which was later echoed by Vernadsky—and spoke about the ability of plants to accumulate energy. He treated human labor as the ultimate process of energy accumulation (Podolinsky 1880). (In English-speaking literature, Podolinsky is best known for arguably inventing an alternative to the Marxist theory of labor through his “energy economics” and its critique by Engels. For a recent summary of the Podolinsky controversy, see Hornborg 2015.) Umov, in his philosophical musings, surmised that stroinost’ (orderliness) is the main characteristic of “living matter” and that evolution—now guided by human activity—is moving in the direction of increasing “orderliness” ([1912] 1993, 122). Referring to these genealogies, Gacheva writes, “a distinctive trait of the philosophy of Cosmism lies in its interpretation of life and creative activity of mankind as a factor of negentropy” (Gacheva, n.d., 20–21).

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“higher form of energy” and thus resisting entropy. Life itself, therefore, is antientropic (obladaet anti-entropiinoi prirodoi). It is on these grounds that Gacheva critiques transhumanism’s reluctance to acknowledge the sharp ontological distinction between the living and the non-living that Cosmists consider crucial.26 According to Gacheva, transhumanists, in their aspirations to “replace the living with the artificial,” forget that it is the “living [zhivoe] that is anti-entropic,” not the artificial (Gacheva, n.d., 102). The task of the human in the broader project of remaking life and death is to learn how to better harness the antientropic qualities of life and ultimately to overcome death itself. The human is thus imagined as mounting the ultimate resistance to entropy and time itself. And for all the differences that divide transhumanists, this position remains one that many would stand behind. In the face of annihilation—whether from the “heat death” of the universe in the distant future or as a result of anthropogenic climate change in the present—it is not only for Fedorovians that the question of returning meaning to life by way of technoscientifically enabled spiritual redemption arises. The idea has been central to all transhumanist and life-extensionist imaginaries from Skulachev’s homo sapiens liberatus, emancipated from the “tyranny of the genome,” to cryonics and using temperature to win sovereignty over time, to the Avatar Project’s liberation from the body in the name of the continued existence of a certain kind of “self,” and on to NeuroNet’s digital “mind meld” and collective consciousness as the pathway for making a meaningful advance into the future. If the metaphysics of Russian immortalism behooves us to reconsider the very notions of life, time, and entropy, what do these projects of overcoming death in the face of extinction signify ethically and politically? As Walter Benjamin famously stated, it might not be the image of liberated grandchildren or future generations that drives people to political action but the memories of oppressed ancestors of generations past (1969, 260). Indeed, secular progressivist teleologies, such as Marxism, provide no satisfactory solution to the problem of honoring those whose sacrifices remain unremembered and unredeemed. Thinking through this same issue complex—what Michael Hagemeister calls the problem of the “victims of history”—Fedorov came to quite different conclusions. Indeed, the Fedorovian project may be interpreted 26. As demonstrated in chapter 2, although Fedorovians sometimes overtly posit such distinctions, they also advance the notion that all matter has the “potential” to be animated or spiritualized, so that the distinction is made not so much a matter of ontology but of history and evolution. Of Russian religious philosophers, Vladimir Solov’ev developed the idea of “spiritualization of matter” (odukhotvorenie materii) in great depth (see Smith 2010).

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precisely as a resolution of the problem of deceased generations that will never enjoy the “realm of freedom,” should it ever be achieved (Marx [1894] 1993, 958; Shental, n.d.). By the logic we find in Fedorov, the only satisfactory solution to the problem of history is the resurrection of the dead, and not in the heavenly realm but immanently, as a result of human action and technological achievement. This line of thinking continued into the 1920s in Biocosmism, a secularized version of Fedorovianism, of which some contemporary transhumanists consider themselves heirs. The emphasis on resurrection, as a way to deliver justice to past generations, defines the ethical framework within which many Russian immortality projects operate. The fact that the ethical imperative to honor the work of past generations by resurrecting the dead complements the focus on immortality in its emancipatory promise for the future is a prominent feature of Russian immortalism. And it is in the importance placed on redeeming the past while building a different future that Russian immortalism distinguishes itself from its Silicon Valley counterpart.27 If contemporary transhumanist thought is inextricably bound up in this way with apocalypticism (Geraci 2010), the achievement of immortality is particularly urgent in its secular iteration, given the growing anticipation of the end of life on Earth as we know it (cf. Farman 2017). In contrast to concerns raised frequently in the media over the dangers posed by emerging technologies, Russian futurists foresee salutary transformations of the human, in which technology is used to solve the problem of extinction by remaking human bodies for an immortal age. While transhumanists generally share contemporary anxieties about the state of the world we may be leaving for future generations—the degradation of the environment, declining economic prosperity—their real worry has more intensity to it. It relates not to the distant catastrophe of the dying Sun that preoccupied intellectuals in the nineteenth century but to the loss of the future itself, a fear that unless we take collective action we might have no future at all.28 In this ethicopolitical context, immortality cannot be

27. While some American “Singularity” proponents (who can be considered a subset of the wider American transhumanism) believe in technological resurrection, it does not appear to them to be an ethical universal for the whole of humanity. For many, it is personal: the originator of the movement, the famous inventor Ray Kurzweil, for example, preserves fifty boxes of his father’s things in the hope that he will be able to “resurrect” him using DNA from his grave and “extracting” memories from his own brain (Kushner 2009). 28. One of Russia’s transhumanist leaders, Alexey Turchin, counts up to twenty-six possible ways humanity might end in the near future. See Turchin’s book Voina i eshche 25 stsenariev kontsa sveta (War and 25 other extinction scenarios; 2008). See also Turchin and Batin 2013.

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decoupled from resurrection: if immortality secures the survival of humanity, resurrection guarantees that survival includes everyone. In the meantime, how this understanding is to be translated into practical action remains an open question. While these debates are only beginning among Russian immortalists, there is an increasingly shared understanding that technology alone will not save us and that it is inseparable from the political and the social that need to be reimagined to open up paths toward new futures. Beyond extinction scenarios, many Russian immortalists worry about the privatization of immortality technologies, insisting instead on the importance of equal access and distribution. This argument is not unique to Russia: in the United States the long-standing debate has been between “democratic transhumanists” (technoprogressives) and libertarians, formulated in terms of whether state funding should be made available for the development of immortalist technologies, whether development should be subjected to safety regulations, and whether advances should be made universally available as a form of public health (Hughes 2014, 139). As the ideal of publicly funded big science is becoming less and less attainable in postsocialist Russia, the majority of my research participants would be in agreement that, for now, the political action that is needed should be modeled on patient activism, with the emphasis on universal participation and open sourcing. As Russian transhumanists push for patient-sponsored clinical trials of potential longevity medications, they argue that it is only by everyone participating and sharing results with everyone else that the takeover of the industry by profit-driven pharmaceuticals can be avoided. Success along those lines would reduce the risk that only the wealthy and the privileged ever benefit from the trials.29 Fedorovians, for their part, believe that if the resurrection of the dead is to be achieved through a synergy of divine and human efforts, it can only take place 29. In the summer of 2017, Mikhail Batin and his colleagues launched a new platform called Open Longevity. It proposes that users—referred to interchangeably as “patients” and “biohackers”—engage in their own diagnostika stareniia (diagnostics of aging) based on risk assessment. Specifically, it asks users to perform highly specialized tests for various parameters related to biomarkers of aging and upload them into an open source database. The leaders of this project emphasize that it is being done on a “non-commercial basis . . . since experience shows that the focus on making profit costs considerable resources and time, and it influences the objectivity of research” (Open Longevity 2018). In a recent virtual debate with a Russianborn Californian transhumanist, who expressed uncommonly extreme libertarian views, Batin defended the project by saying that they represented two different “historic branches of transhumanism”—“he is an adherent to the Nietzschean idea of the superhuman, and I am a follower of Nikolai Fedorov’s Common Cause” (2018b).

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on the condition of apocatastasis, or universal resurrection. It may be this conflation of apocalyptic anticipation with the desire for immortality, paired with the rapid technological change responsible for reconfiguring the boundaries between life and death, that best tells the story of our times. ——— The lecture was long since over back at the Fedorov Society seminar on the problem of time, but the Q&A session was about to go into its second hour. Passions continued to run high. “No more questions?” Gacheva asked hopefully. You could see she was tired. “Let’s go drink tea!” she said as she started rising from her seat. “No, wait, give me a couple of minutes to speak!” said the same voice who earlier demanded definitions of time, space, and life. The man, about the same age as the speaker, probably in his seventies, introduced himself as a scientist. “We did not come here to drink tea!” he added indignantly. “But everybody is tired . . .” “Look, I have been very patient!” he insisted loudly. “I was suffering the whole time! Give me three minutes for my patience!” “OK, give the man a chance to speak,” Aksenov interfered. You could see the two knew each other, like old buddies who are used to fighting, a scientist against a philosopher of science. “I am offended by the low scientific level of this discussion! What about the seventy years that happened after Vernadsky?” the man demanded, as if the lecture had been about the newest scientific discoveries. It was as if he didn’t get the genre. “Respectfully,” countered Anya, the seminar co-organizer and Gacheva’s sole employee in the museum-library, “we are focusing on the idea of the chronotope, space and time in culture, as they were conceived in the early twentieth century. This is a cultural idea . . . Bakhtin’s idea. . . . We will talk about the second half of the twentieth century later in the year. Why don’t you come and give your lecture then? Now we would like to thank Gennadii Petrovich . . .” The man’s look was still incredulous. “Please, this is a lecture in the history of science,” Gacheva pleaded, exasperated. “What history of science? It’s the twenty-first century outside! Do you know that time is a secondary category? Time appeared fourteen billion years ago, after the Big Bang.”

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“Well, this is a hypothesis,” Aksenov retorted. “Hypothesis? No, this is disrespect for science, that’s what it is! As much as I respect Vernadsky. We only deserve someone like Vernadsky if we climb, like dwarfs, on his shoulders and discover the new lands! And new lands have already been discovered, but apparently you haven’t heard.” Gacheva got up and went to the front of the room. “What you are doing right now is completely anti-Fedorovian, counter to all our ideas,” she said severely. I had never seen her so upset. “In this museum-library, we come with the desire to listen to others, even if we don’t agree with each other. You can discuss ideas after the lecture while mingling. The atmosphere you created right now is completely anti-Fedorovian. . . . I am asking everyone to control their feelings. And now let’s talk about pleasant things.” Her voice lightened. She went on to make announcements of the upcoming events at the museum-library: as usual, the schedule was full with roundtables, visiting poets, a biblionoch’ (a special event when libraries and bookstores are open late into the night), and an aktsiia (participatory performance) of live reading of diaries of prominent people. I once again marveled at how this fragile but indefatigable woman found time and energy to come up with all these ideas and somehow unite and guide these completely different people, frankly not always the easiest of sorts, to live with each other, or at least try to within the walls of the museum-library. As if reading my thoughts, Gacheva continued, “And now let’s forgive each other and tell each other that we will never fight like this again . . . especially in public . . . and that we will love one another. Tea is served over there,” she said, pointing and turning to Anya. Everybody jumped up off their seats, and the room filled with the loud sound of people talking and laughing. Gacheva walked up to the belligerent gray-haired scientist. It was clear that they knew each other well. Like the speaker, he was her late mother’s age; both must have been long-time friends of the family. Gacheva laughed, turning to me: “He is really a good guy,” she said in a playful, motherly voice touching his shoulder. “He is a passionarii” (a Russian neologism for an exceptional, unusually driven, charismatic person). “We still love him.” “Yeah, sure, until he grinds you into dust,” someone behind me chuckled. On the other hand, as long as the Common Cause is underway, dust might not be our final destination.

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I n de x

of, 215n6; theory of programmed, 135, 148; wear-and-tear theory of, 128 “Aging Is a Curable Disease” (Fedichev), 154 AIDS activism, 26–27 Aksenov, Gennadii, 99, 211–12, 211n1, 213n4, 232; on biological vs. physical time, 212–13 Alcor (cryonics company), 44 All-Russia People’s Front, 164 alternative social engineering, 16n19, 31n35, 182n22 amateur interest societies, 188–89 Ambrosia (company), 78 American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, 140n19 American Federation for Aging Research, 159 anabiosis, 215n7, 216–18, 217n9 Anarchists-Biocosmists, 93 “Anarchy in Gerontological Terminology” (Hayflick), 147 Andreev, Fedor, 87n8 Andropov, Yuri, 118–19 Animal Aging and Longevity Database, 154n31 animals: brain-computer interfaces (BCI) in, 169n4; cryonics for, 46, 46n16; deextinction of, 217n11; evolutionary adaptation of, 217n10; Internet of, 192; naked mole rats, 128–32, 129, 130n3, 131n4, 140, 145, 154, 156; negligible senescence in, 154; preservation and transplantation of heads of, 54, 54n23; regeneration in, 152–53n28; suspended animation of, 218–19n12

Abi-Rached, Joelle M., 75n44 Abramović, Marina, 176, 177 active-creative evolution, 40n9, 66, 137n12, 142 ACT UP, 26 Adams, Mark, 12 adaptation and death, 126–31, 217n10 AeroNet, 168n2 Agamirzian, Igor’, 178n18 Agency of Strategic Initiatives (ASI), 174–75, 179–80, 191 aging: arrested, 144, 145; biomedicalization of, 28–29, 150–52; compressed morbidity in, 144; cryptobiotic organisms and, 215–20; damage-based theories of, 132– 33; decelerated, 144; diagnostika stareniia (diagnostics of aging), 230n29; as a disease, 146–52; disharmonies in, 137; ethicization of, 125–26; four scenarios in future of, 144–46; free radicals theory of, 133n7; hacker ethos and, 160–61; healthy, 150–51; helping humans turn off, 132–35; megaproject as attempt to abolish, 126–32; in naked mole rats, 128–32, 129, 130n3, 131n4, 140, 145, 154, 156; national spotlight on, 125–26; negligible senescence in, 10n10, 146; optimistic biology and, 135–44, 137n11; organizations studying, 124–25; premature death and, 137–38; prolonged senescence in, 144; research anti-aging drugs for, 152–53, 158–60; species that are resistant to, 124, 154–55; telomere theory

255

256 Anthropocene, 193n31, 194 anthropotechnics, 67n38 anticipation, 11–13 anti-entropy, 226–27, 227n25 apocalypticism, 229–31 apocatastasis, 231 apoptosis, 134–35 apotheosis, 90–95 Appadurai, Arjun, 32n36 “arrow of time,” 214, 214n5 artificial intelligence, 9, 19, 46n15, 203 Artiukhov, Igor’, 41, 124–25 Asad, Talal, 39 As Man Becomes Machine: The Evolution of the Cyborg (Rorvik), 171n8 atheism, 12n13, 122; Russian utopianism and, 10; in the Soviet Union, 113 Atkinson, John William, 137n11 Auerbach, Felix, 227n25 AutoNet, 168n2 autopsies, 44, 44n11 autotrophy, 105n21 Avatar Project, 49–58, 72, 98, 111, 169, 228 Avdeev, Anton, 72 Bakhmet’ev, Porfirii, 87n8, 216–17, 217n11 baptism of ancestors, Mormon, 5n3 Barzilai, Nir, 158–59 Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, The, 73n41 Batin, Mikhail, 24, 26, 35, 58, 153; on aging, 148–49; on death, 42, 86n7; on the free-market economy and life extension efforts, 23n26; Longevity Party created by, 162; Open Longevity platform, 230n29; on transhumanism, 157–58 Bell, Tom W., 226n23 Benjamin, Walter, 228 Berdyaev, Nikolai, 66, 107, 107n25, 108n26 Berg, Lev, 20, 213n3 Berger, Hans, 170 Bergson, Henri, 121n41, 192, 225, 227n25 Berkovskaia, Elena, 89, 117 Bernstein, Anya, 57, 71, 143, 201

I n de x Bessmertie (Frumkin), 93 Bestuzhev-Lada, Igor’, 181 Bethea, David, 14n17 bioconservatives, 17n21 Biocosmists, 5, 13, 14, 14n18, 148 bioethics of BCIs, 169–70, 169n5 biofeedback, 53, 175–76; technologies in, 171–72 biogerontology, 6, 8 Biokosmist, 13n15, 93 biological citizenship, 27 biological vs. physical time, 212–19 biology, optimistic, 135–44, 137n11 biomedicalization of aging, 28–29, 150–52 biometrinet, 184 biosociality, 24 biotechnology, 2, 4, 9, 27, 58, 145; Fedorov and, 18; soteriological significance of, 108; as tool of purposeful evolution, 20 Black Mirror, 221n15 Blagosklonnyi, Mikhail, 149 Bloch, Ernst, 12 blood exchanges, 68–70, 69n39, 78 Bogdanov, Aleksandr, 14n16, 37, 67–68, 77, 209; on blood exchanges, 68–70, 69n39; inclusion of, with Russian Cosmism, 59n30; physiological collectivism and, 69–70 bogostroitel’stvo, 68 Bol’shaia sovetskaia entsiklopediia (The great Soviet encyclopedia), 67n38 Bolshevik revolution, 65n36, 67–69, 190, 196 Bowler, Peter, 121n41 brain, (the): biofeedback and, 53; consciousness of, 72; cryopreservation of memories and, 44–45, 45n13, 46; digital modeling of, 54; personhood and, 75, 76; substrate-independent, 54; telepathy and, 184n23, 191, 192n29; transhumanists on cures to aging, 151n26 brain-computer interfaces (BCI), 166–67, 169, 197; animal experiments with, 169n4; bioethics councils and groups on, 169– 70, 169–70n5; biofeedback technologies

I n de x and, 171–72, 176; consumer applications of, 171n7; discovery of electroencephalography and, 170–71; neuroprosthetics vs., 171n6; new directions for, 172; precursors to, 171–72; religious groups and, 170 BRAIN Initiative, 165n1 Brand, Stewart, 217n11 Brezhnev, Leonid, 118–19 Brin, Sergey, 3 Briukhonenko, Sergei, 54, 54n23 Buck Institute for Research on Aging, 148, 149 Buck-Morss, Susan, 15 Buddhism, 10, 56, 58, 111, 113; BCIs and, 172–73; consciousness transfer and, 57n27; on material body transformation at death, 58n29 Buffenstein, Rochelle, 130 Bulgakov, Sergii, 17, 66, 108n26 burial, 83–85, 87–88, 87n9 Bynum, Caroline Walker, 62n33 Calico (California Life Company), 3, 3n2 Californian Ideology of Silicon Valley, 22–23, 23n25, 162 Cameron, James, 50 Canavero, Sergio, 75n45 “Can Google Solve Death?,” 3 Canguilhem, Georges, 147 cannibalism, 102, 103; neo-, 103n19 capitalism, 12–13, 23, 23n26, 78, 174, 187; Fedorov on, 23–24n27; left accelerationists on, 23–24n27; transhumanists on, 23n26 Capra, Fritjof, 112–13 Carrel, Alexis, 87n8 cephalization theory, 121n40 “Challenge of Transhumanism: Endless Progress into the Depths of the Unhumanning [Raschelovechevanie] of Humanity, The,” 74 Chaplin, Vsevlolod, 56 Chernenko, Konstantin, 118–19 Chernyshevskii, Nikolai, 148n23

257 Chizhevskii, Aleksandr, 17, 66, 199, 199n40 Christianity: BCIs and, 172–73; embraced by Regel’son, 115, 116; monophysitism in, 92; mystical meaning of death in, 107n25; Nestorianism in, 92; pleroma in, 98n14; Regel’son on his first encounter with, 114–15; Semenova and, 117; smertobozhnichestvo in, 90–96, 94n12; Sviatogor’s critique of, 37n4; views of bodies and souls in, 49; Western liberal, 73. See also Orthodox Christianity; religion Church, George, 217n11 Clausius, Rudolph, 223 clinical trials, 159–60 cloning, human, 32n36, 77, 220 Clynes, Manfred E., 171n8 coevolution, 20 collective consciousness technology, 191– 201, 206, 208–9 Collins, Samuel Gerald, 32n36 Comfort, Alex, 133, 133n8 Common Cause, the: future as, 15–19, 24–25; of immortality, 24n27, 60, 62–63, 77, 80; ultimate goal of, 122–23 communal mind, 208 compressed morbidity, 144 Conklin, Edwin Grant, 137n11 consciousness, 72; digitizing of, 203; Mechnikoff on will and, 137n12; Semenova on, 120–22; transfer of, 57n27 Cosmic Christ, 173n10 Cosmism, Russian, 1, 6, 17–18, 28; as active Christianity, 84; on active evolution, 142; Anarchists-Biocosmists and, 93; anti-entropic nature of life, labor and creativity in, 143; biomedicalization of aging and, 151–52; Bogdanov included in, 59n30; also called Fedorov movement, 82n2; as Christian socialism, 23; drawing from Marxism, 27; entropy in, 225–26; ethical depersonalization and, 14n16; Gacheva on, 81–82; linked to transhumanism, 82; major figures in, 64–65; organic progress in, 18, 98, 100,

258 Cosmism, Russian (continued) 103–4, 200–201; origins of terminology of, 66; religion in, 82–83, 100n15; Russian Orthodox Christianity on, 76; views on bodily enhancements, 96, 97; waves of the Fedorov movement and, 89–90, 92. See also Fedorov, Nikolai Council of Chalcedon, 92 creating the future, 32n36, 180–87 CRISPR, 6n5 cryonics, 8, 36, 228; American facilities for, 44; anabiosis and, 216–18; brain preservation with, 44–45, 45n13; as deeply intersubjective, 79; distinguishing life from death in, 218; first American patient in, 5n3; full-body transplants and, 75n45; Gacheva on, 83–84; KrioRus, 2, 38n6, 41–49, 72, 79, 80, 82, 125, 161; local opposition to, 48–49; personality, memories and, 44–45; pet storage with, 46, 46n16; physical time and, 216; process of, 43–44; the soul in, 72–73; storage facilities, 46–49, 84; “suspended animation,” 218– 19n12; as world-shaking idea, 198n39 Cryonics Institute, Michigan, 44 cryptobiotic organisms, 215–20 cybernetics, 226–27, 226n22, 227n25 cyborgs, 20, 33, 51–53, 56, 101, 102–3, 171, 171n8, 208 “Cyborgs and Space” (Clynes and Kline), 171n8 damage-based theories of aging, 132–33 Dana, James Dwight, 121n40 Darwin, Charles, 12, 12n13, 23n26, 121n40, 138 death: adaptation and, 126–31, 217n10; anabiosis and, 216–18; apoptosis and, 134–35; autopsies after, 44, 44n11; Batin on, 42, 86n7; burial after, 83–85, 87–88, 87n9; composition of the body after, 85–86; cryonics and, 42–43; deification or apotheosis, 90–95; distinction between natural and chance/accidental, 86n7; e-, 202; Fedorov on, 62–63; as form of disease,

I n de x 60; Freud on, 86; of God, 65; meaning and, 207, 207n46; mystical meaning of, in Christianity, 107n25; as necessary, 86–87; as obstacle to transforming the human condition, 42; pre-Christian belief in smertobozhnichestvo, 90–95; premature, 137–38, 138n15; reincarnation after, 111, 220n13; resurrection after (see resurrection); science fiction on, 158n34; scientific attempts to abolish, 86–87, 123n44; Semenova’s questions about, 123; species size and life expectancy before, 130n3; “suspended animation” after, 215n7, 218–19n12 death instinct, 138, 138n15, 142 decelerated aging, 144 decolonization, 12 decomposition of the body, 85–86, 87–88, 110–11 de-extinction, 217n11 de Grey, Aubrey, 145–46, 155–56, 155n32 dehumanization, 74, 74n43 deism, 63 Demikhov, Vladimir, 54 democratic transhumanists, 230 depersonalization, ethical, 14n16 Deripaska, Oleg, 154 diagnostika stareniia (diagnostics of aging), 230n29 dialectical materialism, 109n30, 121n40, 122 Dialectics of Nature, 122 digital immortality, 201–10, 202nn43–44, 221n15 disease, aging as, 146–52 disembodiment, 62n33, 96 disharmonies in the human condition, 137, 137n13 “disincarnation,” 62n33 DNA: discovery of human, 119; hope of resurrection using, 229n27; preservation of, 80, 84; programmed cell death and, 134–35 Dobzhansky, Theodosius, 121n41 dog head preservation, 54, 54n23

I n de x Dolgorukii, Arkadii, 223 “Doomsday Vault,” 216n8 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 223 dotcom neoliberalism, 23 Doubly Chosen: Jewish Identity, the Soviet Intelligentsia, and the Russian Orthodox Church (Kornblatt), 115n35 drugs, anti-aging, 152–53, 158–60 dualism, 22, 40, 72, 83 Dunin-Barkovskii, Vitalii, 54, 54n25, 55 Eastern religions, 111. See also Buddhism; Hinduism economic systems, 12–13, 23, 23n26, 174, 187 ectropy, 226 Eddington, Arthur Stanley, 214n5 e-death, 202 Ehrlich, Paul, 135 electroencephalography (EEG), 170–71, 176 electronic yoga, 172 Engels, Friedrich, 16, 111, 122, 224n18 Enteo, Dmitry, 74n42 entropy, 223–24, 225, 226n23; anti-, 226–27, 227n25; negative, 225–26, 226n22, 227n25 eschatology, 14n17, 31, 36, 62n33, 223 Eshliman, Nikolai, 116 “eternal present,” 30 ethical depersonalization, 14n16 Etiudy o prirode cheloveka (Studies in the nature of man; Mechnikoff), 137–38 Etiudy optimizma (Optimistic essays; Mechnikoff), 137, 142 Ettinger, Robert, 5n3 eugenics, 200n41 Eurasianists, 89 evolution, 120–21n40; active-creative, 40n9, 66, 137n12, 142; adaptation of animals in, 217n10; bioengineering as, 132; cooperation and mutual aid in, 23n26; cosmic, 194; divinely mandated, 64; Fedorov on, 64; Fedorovians’ view of, 121; idea of progress in, 11, 22, 121n41; immortality as an imperative of, 2; leaps in, 120n40; of matter, 120, 200, 228n26; non-Darwinian,

259 22; non-random, law-governed, 20 (see also nomogenesis); post-Darwinian, 213n3; purposeful, 20; reception of Darwinian theory of in Russia, 120n40; self-directed, 18, 171n8; Semenova on “ascending,” 122n41; of the species as a spiritual goal, 191; teleological, 121–22n41, 192n30; and theories of aging, 127, 133; transhumanist vs. posthumanist views of, 21; Tsiolkovsky on, 200; as tyrant, 132n6; Vernadsky on, 194 evolutionary framework in transhumanism, 12n13, 20 extinction, human, 7–8, 169, 172, 199, 228–29; of the Sun, 199; of the universe, 229n28 (see also heat death of the universe) Extropy Institute, 226 Facebook, 202 Farman, Abou, 36, 39, 44, 72n40, 219 Fausek, Viktor, 106n22 Fedichev, Petr, 154, 156–57, 164 Fedorov, Nikolai, 1, 3, 13, 17–18, 83n3; on abstract unity, 209n47; on alternative modes of reproduction, 60–61; on “becoming unborn” and re-creation of the parents from one’s own body, 107; call for technological resurrection of the dead, 37; on Christianization of scientific knowledge and creativity, 109n28; on “common cause,” 60, 70; critique of capitalism by, 23–24n27; on death, 60, 62–63; on filial duty, 59–60, 106; Filosofiia obshchego dela, 59, 61; as first transhumanist, 59, 67; on God and worked-for human immortality, 91n11; materialism and, 63, 122–23; on new generations pushing out the old, 104; Orthodox Christianity and, 61–62, 79–80, 119n38; as Promethean, 65, 65n36; real name of, 65n35, 197n36; Regel’son’s embracing of ideas of, 119–20; on regulation of nature, 63–64; on resurrection, 14n18, 195–96n35, 207; on resurrection without transfiguration, 207; as

260 Fedorov, Nikolai (continued) “Socrates of Moscow,” 59; on the soul and resurrection, 61–62, 77, 108–9; theorizing on the museum, 222–23n17; on theory of heat death of the universe, 199; theory of sublimation and, 106; Tolstoy on, 60n32; “victims of history” and, 228–29; on viviparity as parasitism, 105–6; Vselenskoe delo (The universal cause) on, 85n5; Wiles on Mormon practice of baptizing ancestors and, 5n3; writing style of, 63 Fedorov movement. See Cosmism, Russian Fedorov Museum, 80, 81n1, 82, 97, 102 Fedorov Society, 97–103, 116–17, 211, 231 feeding as conscious-creative process, 105–6 feminism, 12 Feniuk, Boris, 160 filial duty, 60–61, 106 Filosofiia obshchego dela (Philosophy of the Common Cause), 59, 89, 61, 118 Fitbit, 202 Florensky, Pavel, 17, 64–65, 66, 100n15, 227n25 Florovsky, Georgii, 107, 108n26 Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 158, 159, 218–19n12 forecasting and foresight, 180–87 Foresight Fleet, 168, 178, 180 Foresight School, 179–80, 189 Formations of the Secular, 39 Fossel, Michael, 215n6 Franklin, Sarah, 10n10 free radicals theory, 133n7 frenzied food chain, 105–6 Freud, Sigmund, 21, 86 full-body transplants, 75n45 Fuller, Buckminster, 64n34 Fuller, Steve, 19–21 future, the: of aging, 144–46; anthropology’s recent attention on, 32n36; as common cause, 15–19, 24–25; creating, 32n36, 180–87, 190 futurism: as politics of time, 11–15; rise of, 10

I n de x Gachev, Georgii, 117, 118 Gacheva, Anastasia, 1–3, 13, 13n14, 18, 18n22, 28, 89, 109, 171n8, 231–32; on burial, 84–85; on Christianization of scientific knowledge and creativity, 109n28; on cyborgs, 101–2, 102–3; on disharmony of nature, 105n20; distinction between pleasure and joy, 100n16; on entropy, 227–28; on immortality with resurrection, 80; on interpretation of life and creative activity in philosophy of Cosmism, 227n25; on Mechnikoff, 142; on organic progress, 98, 100, 103–4; preservation of mother’s DNA by, 80, 83–84; Regel’son and, 116– 17; on remembrance and preservation, 223–25; on Skulachev’s approach, 140–41; on transhumanism’s goals, 98–101 Gagarin, Yuri, 65n35 Gal’tseva, Renata, 66 Gems, David, 146–47 gene editing/genetic engineering, 6n5, 32n36, 108 germ line cells, 127n2 Gero (company), 152–53, 152n27, 157 Gerontological Society of America, 147 gerontology, 133n8, 135 Gerovitch, Slava, 227n25 GIRD (Group for the Study of Reactive Motion), 188, 190n28, 197, 198n37 Gladyshev, Vadim, 149 Gladyshev Lab, Harvard, 149 Glebov, Sergei, 20n23 Global Education Futures, 175n15 Gnosticism, 98n14 God, 2, 7, 212; “death” of, 65; Fedorov on plan of, 62, 63; Indian philosophy of, 113–14; Regel’son on belief in, 111–12; sovereignty of, 40; Triune, 63; workedfor human immortality and, 91n11 Google, 3, 53n20, 221n14 Google Glass, 171, 201, 202 Gorbachev, Mikhail, 119 Gorbunova, Vera, 149 Gorbunova Lab, University of Rochester, 149

I n de x Gordin, Michael, 11n12 Gorskii, Aleksandr, 85n5, 89, 90–96, 94n12, 97 Gould, Steven Jay, 121n40 Govorukhin, Stanislav, 30n33 Graham, Loren, 109n30, 122, 224n18 Gregory of Nyssa, 119 Groys, Boris, 71 Gulliver’s Travels (Swift), 144 Gurdjieff, George, 175 Gurevich, Georgii, 158n34 hacker ethos, 160–61 Hagemeister, Michael, 58n28, 65n35, 228 Haldane, J. B. S., 122, 122n43, 208 Haraway, Donna, 21, 22, 69 Hauskeller, Michael, 20 Hayden, Erika Check, 159 Hayflick, Leonard, 147 Hayles, Katherine, 21 healthy aging, 150–51 heat death of the universe, 199, 223–25, 224n18, 228 heliobiology, 199n40 Heller, Leonid, 12n13 Helmreich, Stefan, 171–72 Herzog, Werner, 221n14 high materialism, 107 Hinduism, 56, 111, 113 Hiroshima, bombing of, 124 Hirschkind, Charles, 39 Hogle, Linda, 18n22 hologram body, 51, 54, 57 homeostasis, 130n3 homo sapiens liberatus, 132, 228 “How to Become Virtually Immortal” (Parker), 202 How to Survive a Plague, 27 human beings: constitution of, 40; disharmony in, 137, 137n13; goal of saving, from death of the universe, 199–200; kinship among, 29n32, 60–61; as one organism, 78, 206, 209; radiant mankind and, 200–201; Turchin on possible end of, 229n28; viviparity as parasitism and, 106–7, 106n22

261 human body: autopsy of, 44, 44n11; biomedical efforts to reduce suffering of, 28–29n32; body-as-machine metaphor, 71–72; as the “common cause” in Fedorov, 2, 104; creation of artificial, 50–58; decomposition of, 85–86, 87–88, 110–11; differing views on enhancement of, 96, 97, 100–101; electrical implants in, 205, 205n45; feeding on other species, 105–6; full-body transplants of, 75n45; hologram, 51, 54, 57; immunity in, 135–36; intentional redesign of, 37; KrioRus preservation of, 2, 41–49; Lenin’s embalmed, 38; Mechnikoff on large intestine in, 136n9; mind-body dualism and, 22, 40–41, 72, 83, 221; organic transformations of, 103; Orthodox Christian view of, 49; as place to start in transhumanist worldview, 42; planned obsolescence of, 134; as plastic project, 40; potential perfectibility of, 104; producing the postSoviet, 71–76; regenerative medicine for, 1, 2, 18, 18n22, 98, 108, 145, 152–53n28, 153, 153–54n29; relationship with technology, 96–101; resurrection of, 61–62, 77, 94–95; secularism and, 39; tissue engineering and, 18n22, 103 Human Brain Project, 165, 165n1, 170, 184 Human Genome Project, 126, 165 humanism, Renaissance, 12n13 Human Microbiome Project, 136n10 Huxley, Julian, 208, 225n21 hydras, 152–53n28 Iaroslavskii, Aleksandr, 93, 216 idealism, 40 “If Immortality Comes, Life Loses Meaning,” 207n46 Ilizarov, Boris, 202n43 immortalism: in convergence of Fedorovianism with transhumanism, 18; Cosmist mission of, 143–44; dearth of research on, 22n24; as key idea of transhumanism, 10n11; medicalization of aging and death

262 immortalism (continued) in, 28–29, 150–52; organic progress and, 18, 98, 100; topics in exploring, 31–34; victims of history and, 228–29 immortality: and apocalypticism, 231; common cause of, 24n27, 60, 62–63, 77, 80; cryonics and, 2, 41–49; digital, 201–10, 202n43–44, 221n15; NeuroNet and (see NeuroNet); not through human effort, religious leaders on, 75–76; public calls and interest in, 1; questions surrounding possibility of, 9; religion and, 2, 7, 10–11; as right, 25–26, 25–26n28; Russian philosophers on, 1–2; Russian/Soviet interest in, 1–6; Silicon Valley technology companies pursuing, 3–4, 22–24, 23n25, 67; symbolic, 224; through blood exchanges, 68–70, 69n39, 78; through cyborgs, 20, 33, 51–53, 56, 101–2, 102–3, 171n8, 208 Immortality (company), 50 immunity, 135–36 “import substitution,” 176n17 Indian philosophy, 113–14 indigenous people, 15 informatic self, 72n40 Institute for Blood Transfusion, 69 Institute of Biology of Aging, 125 Institut fiziki vysokikh energii, 54n26 International Longevity Alliance (ILA), 124, 146, 150, 161–64 Internet of Animals, 192 Internet of People, 192 Internet of Things (IoT), 192 Ishtvan, Zoltvan, 162, 162n42 “Issues of Immortality” (Lamont), 4 Itskov, Dmitry, 24, 49–53, 55–56, 57n27, 58, 72, 76, 79; on radiant mankind, 200–201, 200n42 Ivanitskii, Pavel, 93 Ivashchenko, Andrei, 165–69 Jameson, Fredric, 14, 14n16 joy vs. pleasure, 100n16

I n de x Judaism, 75, 113–14; in post-Stalinist Soviet Union, 115n35 Juengst, Eric, 144 Kanevskii, Vitalii, 35n1 Kaplan, Aleksandr, 54, 54n24, 55 Kapp, Ernst, 100n15 Kaspersky Lab, 179, 179n21, 187 Kaufman, Sharon, 10n10, 151–52 Kennedy, Brian, 148–49, 148n24 Khaltourina, Daria, 125, 157, 161–63 Kholin, Maxim, 152–53, 152n27, 154 kinship, 29n32, 60–61 Kline, Nathan S., 171n8 Knorre, Boris, 119n38 Kobrin, Kirill, 29–30 Kokurina, Elena, 154n29 Komarov, Lev, 42 Konovalenko, Maria, 149, 163 Kornblatt, Judith, 115n35 Korolev, Sergei, 188, 188n26, 190n28, 197–98, 198n37; arrest and imprisonment of, 198n38 Kozhevnikov, Vladimir, 89 Kragh, Helge S., 225n20 Krasheninnikova, Ekaterina, 89, 117 Krasnaia zvezda (Bogdanov), 68 Krementsov, Nikolai, 54n23, 67–70, 69n39, 216 KrioRus, 2, 41–49, 72, 79, 80, 82, 125, 161, 201; autopsy and, 44, 44n11; list of patients, 38n6; VIP options, 44n12 Kukulin, Ilya, 16n19, 30–31, 31n35, 182n22 Kuliabko, Aleksei, 87n8 Kuprevich, Vasilii, 2, 171n8 Kurzweil, Ray, 22, 46, 52–53, 53n20, 160n37, 229n27 Kuyda, Eugenia, 221 Lamont, Corliss, 4 Law of Chaos, 227n25 Lederman, Stephanie, 159 Lefevre, Vladimir, 182 left accelerationists, 23–24n27

I n de x Lektorskii, Vladislav, 207n46 Lenin, Vladimir, 15, 30, 38, 68; critique of the god-builders by, 88n10; entombment of, 38n5, 88; “What Is to Be Done?” by, 148n23 Leninism, 15 Levenchuk, Anatolii, 178n19 Levich, Aleksandr, 214 Levit, George, 213n4 libertarian politics, 17n21, 22–23, 67, 230 life expectancy, growth in, 3 Lipinska, Veronika, 19 Lipovetsky, Mark, 16n19, 29, 30n34 lobbying activities of transhumanists, 161–64 Lock, Margaret, 10n10 “logical suiciders,” 224–25 Logos, 227n25 Loke, Y. W., 106n22 Lotman, Yuri, 226–27, 227n25 Lovell, Stephen, 139n18 lucid dreaming, 175 Luksha, Pavel, 169, 172–74; Agency of Strategic Initiatives (ASI) and, 174–75; on body and technology, 200–201; on digital immortality, 203–6; open-ended activity games and, 182; on physical immortality, 206; on the “Psychozoic era,” 194–95; on telepathy, 191–92; on Tsiolkovsky, 200 Macchiarini, Paolo, 153, 153n29 Mandelstam, Osip, 101, 101n17 Markov, Sergei, 163–64 Mars One, 8n8 Marx, Karl, 1, 12, 12n13, 16, 24n27, 122, 224n18; Eurasianists and, 89; on matter, 111; and Nietzsche on religion, 65; smertobozhnichestvo in context of, 92; on understanding the world vs. changing it, 42 Marxism, 1, 12, 15, 25, 228; Cosmism and, 27, 65; “God-seeking” intellectuals’ rejection of, 114n32; leaps in evolution and, 120– 21n40; Regel’son and, 114; relationship between religion and science in, 37–38 Masing-Delic, Irene, 123n44, 149

263 materialism, 40, 88, 110–11; dialectical, 109n30, 121n40, 122; Fedorovian, 63, 122– 23; high, 107; mechanistic, 22; Semenova on, 120–22 Materializm i empiriokrititsizm (Lenin), 68 matter: evolution of, 120; as spirit-bearing, 5n3, 107n23, 122, 123; spiritualization of, 122, 228n26; subtle, 111–12 Mayakovsky, Vladimir, 37 meaning in death, 207, 207n46 “Measuring the Magic of the Mutual Gaze,” 176 Mechnikoff, Ilya, 137, 140, 142; on consciousness and will, 137n12; on the large intestine in humans, 136n9; on the mystical and metaphysical systems, 138–39; phagocyte theory of, 135–36; as precursor to the human microbiome research, 136n10; on premature death, 137–38, 138n15; Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies by, 138n16; Tolstoy on, 139n18; translations of work of, 137n12 medicalization of aging, 28–29, 150–52 Medvedev, Danila, 41, 45–46, 45n14, 82, 125 memories, preservation of, 44–45; digital immortality and, 222–23 Men’, Aleksandr, 115–16 Menzel, Birgit, 12n13 metahumanism, 21 Metformin, 159–60 Methuselah Foundation, 155n32 millenarianism, 14 Milova, Elena, 46, 125, 150–51, 151n25, 161–62 mind-body problem, 40–41, 72, 83, 221 “mind uploading,” 8, 36, 112, 203, 220 Mitchell, P. Chalmers, 139n17 mitochondrial damage, 133 Mitrokhin, Nikolai, 193n31 monism, 40 Monophysitism, 92 Moravec, Hans, 22 Morgan, Lewis Henry, 16 Morgan, Lynn M., 10n10 Mormon church, baptism of ancestors in, 5n3

264 morphological freedom, 221–22 “Mortals of the world, unite!,” 25–26, 25–26n28 “Moscow methodology circle,” 31n35 Moskalev, Alexei, 146–47 Murav’ev, Valerian, 67n38, 89, 97–98, 98n14 museums, Fedorov’s theorizing on, 222–23n17 My iz solnechnoi sistemy (We are from the solar system), 158n34 Mykytyn, Courtney Everts, 140n19 naked mole rats, 128–32, 129, 130n3, 131n4, 140, 145, 154, 156 Narodnyi arkhiv, 202n43 Nashi youth movement, 41 national idea, anti-aging as, 163–64 National Technology Initiative (NTI), 176, 177–78n18, 178, 187 natural selection, 127 nature, 14; disharmony of, 105n20; Fedorov on regulation of, 63–64, 104–5; Mechnikoff on acceptance of laws of, 138; second law of thermodynamics in, 223–24, 225 necrophilia, 97–98; Lenin on God as, 88 negative entropy, 225–26, 226n22, 227n25 negligible senescence, 10n10, 146, 154 Nemtsov, Boris, 189 neo-cannibalism, 103n19 neoliberalism, 12, 23, 29, 76–77 Nestorianism, 92 Neurocybernetics Institute, 54 NeuroNet, 165, 169, 228; “bottom-up” structure of, 167–68; brain-computer interfaces (BCI) of, 166–67, 169–72; collective consciousness technology and, 191–201; as communal mind, 208; digital immortality and, 201–10, 221–22; emergence of full-fledged, 184–86; growth of, 186–87; naming of, 168n2, 186n24; as new space race, 187–91; as physiological collectivism, 209–10; visionary projects of, 168; as Web 4.0, 167 neuroprosthetics, 171n6

I n de x NeuroSky, Inc., 171n7 New Age, 56, 113 New Bottles for New Wine (Huxley), 225n21 New Soviet Person, 67 Newton, Isaac, 212 N. F. Fedorov: Sobranie sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh (Collected works in four volumes), 59n31 Nicene Creed, 61 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 12, 65, 114 Nikitin, Valentin, 107n24 Niqueux, Michel, 12n13 nomogenesis, 20, 20n23, 213n3 nonprogrammed theories of aging, 132–33 noösphere, 192–95, 193n31 Novas, Carlos, 27–28 occultism, 65, 72 “O fiziologicheskom kollektivizme” (On physiological collectivism), 69 Olovnikov, Alexey, 214, 215n6 “On Physical Immortality” (Wiles), 4–5 open-ended future scenarios, 182–83 Open Longevity platform, 230n29 open-source education, 189 optimistic biology, 135–44, 137n11 organ growing, 103 “organicheskii progress” (organic progress), 18, 98, 100, 103–4, 200–201 organizational-activity games, 182 “Organoproektsiia” (Organ projection), 100n15 organosozidanie, 103 organ transplantation, 103n19 Origin of the Species (Darwin), 138 Orthodox Christianity, 3, 18; apotheosis of death in, 90–95; Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church on social issue positions of, 73n41; criticism of the Avatar Project, 55–56; embodiment in, 94–96; Fedorov and, 61–62, 79–80, 119n38; icon worshipping, 94n12; importance of incarnation and deification (theosis), 122; on materialism,

I n de x 107–8; name worshipping (imiaslavie), 94n12; pairing of right soul with right body and resurrection in, 220–21; personalism in, 209; radical activists in, 74n42; as religion of action, 18; resurrection in, 61–62, 62n33, 94–95; on Revelation, 186n25, 222n16; Russian utopianism and, 10; smertobozhnichestvo in, 90–96, 94n12; socialist, 23; theosis in, 12n13, 18, 122–23; time issues in, 12; on transhumanism, 40, 73–75, 96; transhumanists’ openness to, 82–83; views on bodily enhancements, 96, 97; Western liberalism and, 73. See also Christianity; religion “O smerti i pogrebenii” (On death and burial), 85–86 Ovladenie vremenem (Overcoming time), 89 Page, Larry, 3 Palomnik v budushchee (A pilgrim to the future; Semenova), 121n41 pantheism, 63 parasitism, viviparity as, 106–7, 106n22 Parkhomenko, Darya, 176 Parry, 38n5 Party for Life Extension, 26, 26n29, 27 patristics, 119n39 personhood, 72, 75, 76, 77, 168; as brainhood, 75n44; distributed, 186, 194; speculative, 219 Peskov, Dmitry, 174–75, 178; Agency of Strategic Initiatives (ASI) and, 174–75, 179– 80; on amateur interest societies, 188–89; on anticipatory cadres training, 187; on creating the future, 180–87, 190; on emergence of new markets, 187–88; GIRD and, 188, 197; on Russia’s national technology initiative, 178–79; on the Soviet space program, 190; on Tsiolkovsky, 197–98 Peterson, Nikolai, 89, 137n12 Petryna, Adriana, 27 phagocytes, 136 phenoptosis, 135 physical vs. biological time, 212–19

265 physiological collectivism, 14n16, 69–70, 77, 209–10 Pickering, Andrew, 171 planned obsolescence, 134 pleasure vs. joy, 100n16 Pleistocene Park, 217n11 Plekhanov, Georgii, 120–21n40 pleroma, 98n14 Podolinsky, Sergei, 227n25 Poema anabioza (Iaroslavskii), 5, 93, 216 political economies of hope, 27 politics of time, futurism as, 11–15 polnoorgannyi humans, 103 posthuman, 19–22, 92 posthumanism and transhumanism, 19–22 post-Soviet human, 71–76 pre-Christian belief in smertobozhnichestvo, 91 premature death, 137–38, 138n15 Preyer, Wilhelm, 215n7 Pride, Valerija, 2, 3, 28, 41–48, 80, 125, 161; on artificial bodies as still human, 74; on pet storage, 46n16; on storage procedures, 48n18 Principle of Hope, The (Bloch), 12 Principles of Extropy (More), 226 probiotics, 136, 136n10 programmed cell death, 134–35 progressors, 15–17, 29–31 Project Resurrection, 107n24 Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies, The (Mechnikoff), 138n16 prolonged senescence, 144 Promethean ethos, 65, 65n36, 117–18 “prosthetic civilization,” 18 pseudoscience, 11n12 psychotherapeutic technologies, 172 “Psychozoic era,” 194–95, 194n34 Puhalo, Lazar, 49 Pussy Riot, 36n2 Putin, Vladimir, 29, 36, 40; promotion of Russian technological innovation efforts, 178–79n20; on Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh liudei (ZhZL) series, 211n1

266 Rabinow, Paul, 24 radiant mankind, 200–201, 200n42 Rally for Radical Life Extension, 2, 91 Ranisch, Robert, 21 Rapamycin, 159n36 Rapid Foresight, 175, 175n15 raschelovechevanie, 74n43, 96 Red Star (Bodganov), 68 Regel’son, Lev, 95–96, 98–99, 109, 110, 122n42; atheism, secularism and, 113; on belief in God, 111–12; blending of physics and theology by, 111–13; embracing of Christianity by, 115–16; embracing of Fedorov’s ideas by, 119–20; Fedorov Society and, 116–17; first encounter with Christians, 114–15; on god-seeking, 114; on materialist theory of the soul, 110–11; on restoration of the dead body, 110–11; Semenova questions for, on death, 123; on the soul, 120; on subtle matter, 111–12; Universitet molodogo marksista (University of the young Marxist [UMM]) and, 114 regenerative medicine, 1, 2, 18, 18n22, 98, 108, 145, 152–53n28, 153, 153–54n29 regulation of nature, 63–64, 104–5 reincarnation, 111, 220n13 religion, 2, 7; anticipation and, 12; artificial bodies and, 55–56; blended with physics, 111–13; bogostroitel’stvo, 68; denigration of the body in Eastern, 111; Fedorov movement and, 18; Judaic, 75, 113–14; Mikhail Batin on, 35–36; New Age, 56, 113; pleroma in, 98n14; relationship between science and, in Marxism, 37–38; revival of, in Russia, 56, 73, 95, 114n32–33; in Russian Cosmism, 82–83, 100n15; Soviet use of space exploration to disprove, 7n6; transhumanism and, 40; utopianism and, 10–11. See also Christianity; Orthodox Christianity “religionization of science,” 109 resurrection, 12n13, 61–62, 77, 230; coupling of right soul with right body as key for,

I n de x 220–21; cult of smertobozhnichestvo and, 90–95; decomposition and, 85–86; debt of, 60; Fedorov on, 14n18, 62, 195–96n35, 207; Gacheva on immortality with, 80; in early Christianity, 61–62, 62n33, 94–95; as reassemblage, 62, 119; Regel’son on, 110–11; Russian terminology of, 84–85n4; science and, 109; Semenova on, 119–20; Shchoukine on, 207; without transfiguration, 207 Revelation, Book of, 186n25, 222n16 Rich, Nathaniel, 219–20 right to immortality, 25–26, 25–26n28 right to be forgotten, 222–23 right to be remembered and resurrected, 202n43 right to privacy, 221n14 Rinpoche, Phakyab, 49 Romantsov, Serafim, 116 Roosth, Sophia, 215–16, 216n8 Rorvik, David, 171, 171n8 Rosatom, 189 Rose, Nikolas, 27–28, 75n44 Rossiia, kotoruiu my poteriali, 30n33 Roswell Park Cancer Institute, 149 Russia: alternative social engineering in, 16n19, 31n35, 182n22; apocalyptic ideas of end of time in, 14–15; Bolshevik and scientific revolutions in, 65n36, 67–69, 190, 196; brain-to-brain networks projects in, 176–77; concept of noösphere in, 192–95, 193n31; conflict between tradition and modernity in, 30n34; foresight in, 181–82; future-making practices in today’s, 30–31; interest in immortalism in, 1–6; KrioRus of (see KrioRus); National Technology Initiative (NTI), 176, 177–78n18, 178, 187; non-European modernity and identity of, 20n23; Party for Life Extension in, 26, 27; patristics in, 119n39; religious philosophy development in, 108n26; religious revival in, 56, 73, 95, 114n32–33; return of progressors in, 29–34; rise of futurisms in, 10; science fiction in, 15–16, 16n19, 67–68,

I n de x 158n34; social planning in, 182; space exploration by, 6–9, 13, 190–91, 195–200; study of time in, 214–15; utopianism in, 1, 10–11, 12n13. See also Soviet Union, the salvation, universal, 12n13; through space exploration, 58n28 Sanders, Bernie, 27n30 Saprykin, Yuri, 30n34 Schedrovitsky, Georgy, 182, 182n22 Schrödinger, Erwin, 225, 226n22 science: anti-aging vs. anti-death, 140n19; artificial intelligence, 46n15; biogerontology (biology of aging), 8, 130–35, 146–52; Christianization of knowledge and creativity in, 109n28; cryobiology, 38n5, 108; cybernetics, 224n18, 226n22, 227, 227n25; discovery of DNA by, 119; exploited as means to end, 109; full-body transplants, 75n45; gene editing/genetic engineering, 6n5, 32n36, 108; germ line cells, 127n2; heat death of the universe, 199, 223–25, 224n18, 228; heliobiology, 199n40; mysticism and, 112–13; national spotlight on aging and, 125–26; optimistic biology and, 135–44; pseudo-, 11n12; psychotherapeutic technologies, 172; redemption through, 31, 225, 228; regenerative medicine, 1, 2, 18, 18n22, 98, 108, 145, 152–53n28, 153, 153–54n29; rejuvenation research, 13, 68, 69, 93, 125, 155n32, 164, 208; research on anti-aging drugs, 152–53, 158–60; second law of thermodynamics, 223–24, 223–24n18, 225, 225–26n22, 225n19, 225n20; stem cell research, 77, 153, 153n28; therapeutic hypothermia, 219n12; transplantation, 75n45, 87n8 science fiction, 15–16, 16n19, 67–68, 158n34 Science for Life Extension Foundation, 35, 154n29 scientism, 88 seasteading, 77–78 second law of thermodynamics, 223–24, 223–24n18, 225, 225–26n22, 225n19, 225n20

267 secular transhumanism, 10, 39–40, 58, 71–72 Segal, David, 51–52 self: as “information,” 72n40; as “plastic substance,” 40n7; and selfsameness of the body at resurrection, 62n33; sovereignty of the, 76–80 self-deification, 12n13, 18 Seluanov, Andrei, 149 Semenova, Svetlana, 79, 80, 82, 89, 107n24, 109, 211; on Christianization of scientific knowledge and creativity, 109n28; on consciousness, 120–22; on disharmony of nature, 105n20; dislike of “grave entomology” of, 83–84; education of, 117; Fedorov Society seminars started by, 102–3, 103n18; on Fedorov’s view of nature, 104–5; on globalization, 193n31; on resurrection and science, 119; questions about death from, 123; Regel’son and, 116–17; start of interest in Fedorov, 117–18; writings of, 89, 118–19 Setnitskii, Nikolai, 86n6, 97; on burial rituals, 87–88, 87n9; on Christianity, 88–89; on death, 85–87; on salvation of the soul, 90; as second wave of Fedorov movement, 89; on smertobozhnichestvo, 90–96, 94n12 Shchedrovitsky, G. P., 31n35 Shchoukine, Timour, 50, 51, 53–55, 53n21; on death and meaning, 207; digital immortality and, 205–6; expert interviews produced by, 53n22; mind-body practices and, 175–76; NeuroNet and, 169–70, 172–73; on physical immortality, 206; transhumanism and, 201 Shmidt, Petr, 216–18, 217n10 Siddiqi, Asif, 7n7, 190–91, 190n27, 196–97 Silent Talk, 183 Silicon Valley, 3–4, 22–24, 23n25, 67 Singularity Is Near, The (Kurzweil), 46, 52–53 Skolkovo Foundation, 154 Skulachev, Maxim, 114n33, 160 Skulachev, Vladimir, 126–28, 131–32, 131n4, 141, 145, 214, 228; on hacking, 160; on helping humans turn off aging, 132–35;

268 Skulachev, Vladimir (continued) on old age as pathological, 139–40; theory of programmed aging, 148; understanding of Russian Cosmism and transhumanism, 132n5 Sloterdijk, Peter, 67n38 smertobozhnichestvo, 90–96, 94n12 socialism, 12–13, 15, 23; Christian, 23; collapse of, 29 social media, 202, 221n15 social planning, 182 social suffering, 28–29n32 Solov’ev, Vladimir, 17, 64–65, 66, 228n26 Sorgner, Stefan, 19, 20, 21 Sorokin, Vladimir, 29 soul, the: amputation of, after death, 95; apotheosis of death and, 90–95; consciousness and, 72; cryonics and, 72–73; Fedorov on, 61–62, 77, 108–9; Regel’son’s materialist theory of, 110–11, 120; resurrection and, 61–62; smertobozhnichestvo and, 90–95 sovereignty of self, 76–80 Soviet Union, the, 9; alternative social engineering in, 16n19; atheism in, 113, 122; deaths of government officials in, 118–19; future orientation of, 30–31, 67; issue of time in, 13, 15; Jews in, 115n35; under Lenin, 15, 30, 38, 38n5, 68, 88, 88n10, 148n23; New Soviet Person in, 67; popular motion pictures in, 35n1; producing the post-Soviet human, 71–76; religious revival after collapse of, 114n34; science fiction in, 15–16; self as “plastic substance” in, 40n7; space program of, 7n6, 58n28, 190, 190n27, 196–200; technofuturism in, 10. See also Russia space exploration, 6–9, 7n6, 13, 156, 190–91, 190n27; Fedorov on regulation of space in, 64n34; Mars One, 8n8; NeuroNet and, 168; transfiguration, perfection of humanity, and eternal salvation through, 58n28; Tsiolkovsky and, 64–65n35, 195–96n35, 195–200, 197n36 species size and life span, 130n3

I n de x Spiridonov, Valerii, 75n45 spirit-bearing matter, 5n3, 107n23 spiritualization of matter, 228n26 Stalin, Joseph, 36 Stalinism, 15 Stambler, Ilya, 137 Stapledon, Olaf, 208 stem cell research, 77, 153, 153n28 Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), 145–46 “Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence: Why Genuine Control of Aging May Be Foreseeable,” 145n21 Strugatsky brothers, 15–16, 16n19, 17n20, 30, 31n35 substrate-independent brain, 54 suffering, social, 28–29n32 “suspended animation,” 215n7, 218–19n12 Sviatogor, Aleksandr, 37, 37n3–4, 93 Swift, Jonathan, 144 Tainy tsarstviia nebesnogo (The mysteries of the heavenly kingdom; Semenova), 118, 120 Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, The (Capra), 112 Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME), 159 technofuturism, 5, 10; libertarian politics and, 22–23 technoprogressives, 17n21 techno-utopianism, 22, 36–37, 39, 59, 65, 67, 76, 190–91, 208; and Cosmism, 65, 65n37 TEDx events, 173, 173n11 Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre, 121n41, 192, 192n30 teleological evolution, 121–22n41, 192n30 telepathy, 184n23, 191, 192n29 telomere theory of aging, 215n6 theory of programmed aging, 135, 148 theosis, 12n13, 18 Thiel, Peter, 3, 78 Thompson, William, 223 Thurman, Robert, 49

I n de x time: Aksenov on, 211–12, 213n4; “arrow of,” 214, 214n5; biological vs. physical, 212–19; cryptobiotic organisms and, 215–16; life, 211–12; politics of, 11–15 Tisherman, Samuel, 219n12 tissue making, 18n22, 103 Titov, German, 7n6 tkanetvorenie, 103 Todd, Albert C., 101n17 Tolstoy, Leo, 60n32, 139n18 ToR (Target of Rapamycin), 159n36 transfiguration, 12n13 transhumanism, 7–8, 16–18; on aging as a disease, 148–50; apocalypticism and, 229–31; Batin on, 157–58; becoming a mass movement, 27n30; California, 22–23, 162; cryonics and, 2, 41–49; dearth of ethnographic research on, 22n24; defined, 36; democratic, 230; diagnostika stareniia (diagnostics of aging) in, 230n29; ethical depersonalization and, 14n16; evolutionary framework of, 20; Fedichev on, 156–57; Gacheva on, 98–101; hacker ethos in, 160–61; immortalism as key idea of, 10n11; linked to the Fedorov movement, 82; lobbying activity in, 161–64, 162n42; morphological freedom and, 221–22; as necrophilia, 97–98; NeuroNet and (see NeuroNet); Party for Life Extension and, 26, 27; post-human condition and, 19–22; Russian Orthodox Church and, 40, 73–76, 82–83, 96; secularism and, 10, 39–40, 58, 71–72; Silicon Valley, 3–4, 22–24, 67; sources of, 12n13; spiritual, 58, 59, 72; technologies of, 36; technoprogressive, 17n21; views on bodily enhancements, 96, 97, 100–101 transplantation science, 75n45, 87n8, 103n19 Trapeznikov, Igor’, 71 Trotsky, Leon, 37, 137n13, 186 Tsander, Fridrich, 190n28, 198n37 Tsiolkovsky, Konstantin, 6–7, 7n6, 17, 37, 58, 58n28, 195–200; Chizhevskii and, 199n40; eugenicism and, 200n41; as

269 leader in space program development, 64, 64–65n35, 66, 195–96n35, 197n36; Tsander and, 198n37 Turchin, Alexey, 23n26, 27, 27n30, 201, 205, 208, 229n28 Twitter, 202 tyranny of space and time, 13, 141 tyranny of the genome, 228 ultra-Enlightenment, 19, 71–72 Umov, Nikolai, 227n25 unbrotherliness, 60 unhumanning, 74, 74n43 universal salvation, 12n13; through space exploration, 58n28 Universitet molodogo marksista (University of the young Marxist [UMM]), 114 U.S. National Institute of Aging, 3 Utkin, Vitalii, 74–76, 96 utopianism, Russian, 1, 10–11; religion and, 12 Veblen, Thorstein, 24n27 Vedanta, Advaita, 53, 55 Vernadsky, Vladimir, 17, 37, 64, 66, 99, 105, 232; on autotrophy, 105n21; concept of ectropy and, 226, 227n25; distinction between philosophical and properly “scientific” contexts by, 194n33; the noösphere and, 192–95, 193n31; notion of space and time, 211, 213n4; on “Psychozoic era,” 194n34 Vestnik Evropy (Mechnikoff), 137n12 viability of organisms theory, 68–69 Vidal, Fernando, 62n33 Vinge, Vernor, 46n15 Vishnudevananda, Swami, 49, 53n21 viviparity as parasitism, 106–7, 106n22 von Baer, Karl Ernst, 213n3 von Uexküll, Jakob, 213n3 Vselenskoe delo (The universal cause), 85n5 Warwick, Kevin, 205n45 Way of the Upgrade method, 162n39 wear-and-tear theory of aging, 128 Web 4.0, 167 Weismann, August, 126–27, 127n2, 128

270 Wells, H. G., 181, 208 “wetware,” 176n16 What Is Life? (Schrödinger), 225 “What Is to Be Done?” (Gane and Haraway), 148n23 Wiles, Peter, 4–5, 5n3, 123n44, 139n18 Wolfe, Cary, 21 Yandex, 179 yogurt, 136, 136n10 Young, George, 64, 107n23, 198n39 Yurchak, Alexei, 38n5

I n de x Zabolotsky, Nikolai, 105n20 Zamri, umri, voskresni (Freeze, Die, Come to Life; Kanevskii), 35n1 Zee, Anthony, 214n5 Zen’kovskii, Vasilii, 94–95 Zhavoronkov, Alexander, 146–47 Zhizn’ bez starosti (Life without old age; Shulachev), 160 Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh liudei (Life of remarkable people; Aksenov), 211 Zoroastrianism, 111 Zuckerberg, Mark, 3

A NO T E ON T H E T Y PE This book has been composed in Arno, an Old-style serif typeface in the classic Venetian tradition, designed by Robert Slimbach at Adobe.