A Transhumanist President in 2016? Yeah, we’ll see…

A transhumanist president in 2016?  As much as I would like to see a technologically aware president in the near future, I highly doubt 2016 will be the year (2020 will almost certainly be a different story, though).  Still, what better way to bring awareness to the public than having a singularitarian run for president?  I’ve read up on Zoltan Istvan a little, but I’ll have to dig in a bit more before I decide if I’m going to cast my vote his way.  Although, if it’s between him and a religious conservative, you know who I’m going to choose!

An interview with Zoltan Istvan, leader of the Transhumanist Party and 2016 presidential contender

A cyberpunk/transhumanist, kinda

ExtremeTech has never been particularly interested in politics. That being said, as the focus of politics and politicians inexorably shifts towards technology, we might just jump in the water for a dip.

Many might imagine that concerns of a more socio-political nature — like who is able to accrue what particular powers or possessions, and from whom — would persist independently of technological influence. Others, like the Transhumanist Party founder Zoltan Istvan, might offer that socio-political issues already are, at heart, technological issues. Now seizing the day, and a rapidly expanding number of like-minded transhumanists, Istvan has announced that he will be a contender in the 2016 US presidential race.

IstvanIf you haven’t heard of transhumanism, or you’re not quite sure what it means, I suggest you readour introductory story about transhumanismbefore diving into the rest of this story. In short, though, transhumanism (sometimes referred to as H+) is about improving or transforming the human condition through technology. Brain implants, genetic engineering, bionic limbs, indefinite life extension — these are all examples of the topics (and elective surgeries) that a transhumanist would be interested in.

The Transhumanist Wager

In his recent book The Tranhumanist Wager Istvan outlines three laws:

  1. A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.
  2. A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently as possible — so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First Law.
  3. A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe — so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws.

If energetically adopted, these deceptively simple maxims ultimately compel the individual to pursue a technologically enhanced and extended life. Zoltan and other supporters of transhumanism have come to see the choice to accept or reject these principles as something far more fundamental than the choice between liberal or conservative principles. In other words, it is a more compact predictor, a simpler explanation of your worldview, motivations, and actions than any current party provides.

It is for these reasons that Zoltan has founded the Transhumanist Party and is now taking this first major step to grow it. At this point in the game, the next major step — getting access to all the state ballots — could prove challenging. With these ideas in mind, we present an interview with (possibly) the next US president: Zoltan Istvan.

ZoltanIstvan

Why did you decide to run for the US presidency?

Zoltan Istvan – The most important goal of the Transhumanist Party and my 2016 presidential campaign is to spread awareness of transhumanism and to address the issue that society will be greatly changed by radical science and technology in the next 5-15 years. Most people are unaware how significant these changes could be. For example, we might all be getting brain implants soon, or using driverless cars, or having personal drones follow us around and do our shopping for us. Things like anonymity in the social media age, gender roles, exoskeleton suits for unfit people, ectogenesis, and the promise of immersive virtual reality could significantly change the way society views itself. Transhumanism seeks to address these issues with forward-thinking ideas, safeguards, and policies. It aims to be a bridge to a scientific and tech-dominated future, regardless what the species may eventually become.

While the Transhumanist Party has almost no chance of winning this election, its goal is to get on as many state ballots as possible, so people will see its promise and recognize what it stands for. By doing so, we’ll let citizens know an exciting political movement is afoot that focuses on using technology and science to enhance the human species. And maybe sometime in the future, many people will want to join it. Furthermore, I’m hopeful other political parties will take notice of transhumanism and incorporate its ideas into their own philosophies.

On a final note, it’s my hope that others will start to run for various political offices, both locally and nationally, under the Transhumanist Party banner. This way we can show the country that future politics should be far more science and technology inspired. This would be a great step for the direction of the America.

The best thing about being transhuman is what the word really means: beyond human. In this way, transhumanism aims to leave behind the problems and bickering the human race has undergone for millennia, especially ethnic, racial, gender, and cultural divisions. The language of transhumanism is science — and that language and cultural framework is universal. That’s the brilliance of transhumanism. It seeks not to divide, but to improve the lives of all people. It doesn’t judge one’s race, sex, class, culture, or ethnicity. It transcends them with its scientific aims. For example, designer babies — a classic transhumanist field — are literally just years away.

The idea that a child will belong genetically to one race when that same child has been significantly genetically modified is no longer valid. Transhumanism will overcome this hurdle and many others that have sadly embroiled many countries and communities into longstanding enmity.

A transhumanist's take on Michelangelo's Cistine Chapel

If, as you observed, “Morality is often defined by the amount of time we have left,” can transhumanists run on a morality platform without being labelled as some kind of a religion life-extension as their God?

This is a challenging question. I admit there are some aspects of transhumanism that seem almost religious in nature, such as the idea of the Singularity or the all-important goal of trying to stop biological aging and conquer human death. But what many people forget is that transhumanism is also engaged in discussing and exploring the mysteries of the universe — that many transhumanist scientists are in love with that mystery. They spend their lives dedicated to unraveling the puzzles of our existence. However, transhumanists pursue all this mystery from the point of view of the Scientific Method, which is a tool designed to ensure a healthy amount of skepticism to all endeavors. That is the critical difference between transhumanists and many fundamentalist religious people; it’s the difference between transhumanism and religion. We are encouraged to question and ask “why?” in our pursuit to make a better life for ourselves. We are encouraged to find the best path forward, regardless of preconceived notions or historical precedent. There are no guarantees except that which we create for ourselves.

Transhumanists are techno-optimistic people who believe they have the power and the universal right to improve their lives. Some will say this type of attitude is religious or spiritual in nature, and maybe it is from a certain point of view. But mostly it’s just a healthy scientific attitude about creating the best life for oneself, one’s loved ones, and one’s planet.

The fact that the deaf can hear via transhumanist implants, war amputees now have feeling robotic limbs, and the paralyzed can walk via exoskeleton technology reminds religious people of their own texts of faith and its parables. I find this a good thing, and hope that religious people may come to embrace transhumanism due to some of the similarities. While I remain an atheist, I see no reason that religions can’t eventually see many of their hopes and ideas fulfilled via the promise of transhumanism.

While the hope exists that improved societies promptly lead to improved individuals, historically it has always been the richest and most powerful people who — often exclusively — received the improvements. How might transhumanism best proceed in the current political climate to rectify our near universal dreams for equality and opportunity and universal improvements to the human condition?

The history of scientific and technological advancement — which is really the history of transhumanism — has always pushed our species forward in a positive way. Transhumanism has made all people live longer, better, and with more opportunity. A recent report out of the United Nations says the poverty level around the world is the lowest it’s ever been. This is largely due to science and technology. While it’s true that a small minority — often the so-called elite — are usually first to get new technologies and advancements, those products have a long history of trickling down to all levels of society. That’s why you can find cellphones in mud hut villages in some of the poorest parts of Africa. And now those villages can communicate with family members far away or call a doctor to come visit a sick person. Such advancement is truly wonderful.

Human with robot exoskeleton arm, writing EvolutionThe world is evolving positively due to transhumanism tech and science. I believe it will continue to evolve into a place where living standards and the happiness of all people sharply rise as a result. In the future, I think there will be more interconnectedness than ever before. While I’m a big fan of the individual and their rights, such interconnectedness due to a digital culture will bring us all closer, possibly in ways we couldn’t imagine. Eventually, advancements in technology — such as widespread chip implants, virtual currencies, and brain wave reading devices (which already exist) — will force issues of equality and universality across all communities and borders. Globalization will not just be a slow jog, but become a full sprint.

In the future, it may not be about the individual versus the collective, but about how much one wants to participate in a thriving global digital community versus not participating. Everyone will have the chance to engage and participate if they want. Virtual worlds, free online education, and 24/7 social media usage will become the playgrounds of society and social interaction. Such a life may seem strange to many people — especially older, more conservative people — but observe how the youth have already taken to such things. They are our future, and they are already leading the way, delving further into transhumanist perspectives as each year passes.

For more information about Zoltan Istvan, his book The Transhumanist Wager, and his bid for the 2016 US presidency, visit the Transhumanist Party website.

 

This article can also be found on the Extreme Tech website at http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/192385-an-interview-with-zoltan-istvan-leader-of-the-transhumanist-party-and-2016-presidential-contender

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