Last week, the Russians planted their flag in the Arctic and claimed a part of it as their own. We shortlist some curious ways in which nations are trying to triumph over a fast changing world.
South Korea: It’s a country planning to put a robot in every home by 2013, and asking questions straight out of The Matrix and Star Wars: How will we deal with robots that hurt humans and prevent them from overpowering their creators? So, they have just announced plans to release the world’s first Robot Ethics Charter by the year-end.
Russia: One good news — if you can call it that — to come out of global warming is that the Arctic looks like it’s ready for exploitation. Earlier this month, Moscow put down a titanium flag on what it argues is an underwater extension of its territory, and contains billions of tons of oil. Challenging this claim, the Canadians say this isn’t the 15th century and countries can’t just go around claiming pieces of the planet for themselves.
China: In a supremely ironic turn of events, Beijing’s atheist leaders now mandate Tibet’s Living Buddhas. The current Dalai Lama is banned from playing any role in selecting the senior lamas of the future.
USA: As if it were not enough that they are still embattled in Iraq, the Americans have found a new frontier for the war against terrorism: space. Announced last year, they would like the list of space tourists, like the ones readying to launch with Richard Branson in two years, to be carefully screened to make sure that terrorists do not use spacecraft as weapons.
Sweden: The online fantasy world of Second Life, populated by more than eight million avatars, acquired an unusual resident two month ago: the Swedish embassy. Launching this virtual office, the country’s foreign minister said: “We didn’t know 10 years ago that any of this was possible. Where it takes us five to 10 years from now, nobody knows.”