The 2016 presidential race just got a lot more interesting. I’m not talking about Hillary Clinton or Rick Perry, or even Sarah Palin—I’m talking about someone with a far cooler name: Zoltan Istvan.
Istvan is a one of the most famous transhumanists out there, largely because of his prolific and popular writings. He writes for the Huffington Post, Vice, Psychology Today, and many other publications, and his novel The Transhumanist Wager, details one man’s search for immortality through technology.
As a transhumanist, Istvan believes that humans should use technology to better themselves and the world, including by pursuing radical life extension, even immortality. This could be achieved via genetic or cellular modification, by integrating robotic parts into our bodies, and/or by figuring a way to upload consciousness into a computer or live in a virtual world. Transhumanism, also known as Humanity +, advocates the ethical use of technology, as well as the necessity of debating and deliberating its use—both ideas anyone can espouse, regardless of whether one buys the rest of the transhumanist agenda.
Transhumanism has gained traction as scientists and thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil, Aubrey de Grey, and Gennady Stolyarov have become increasingly well known. In fact, the Transhumanist Party is now official, and it’s putting up Istvan as its 2016 presidential candidate. The move thrusts the party, as well as the belief system, into the limelight. It will be interesting to see how seriously, if at all, other parties and candidates take Istvan, and whether the platform will end up having a life of its own regardless of the outcome.
Istvan plans to highlight three main points during his campaign. First, he’ll lobby for funding forresearch on life extension, with the ultimate goal being to put a stop to aging and death in the next few decades. Second, he wants to initiate a cultural change in America when it comes to transhumanism. He wants to debunk the idea that transhumanists want to turn society into a bunch of Terminators or facilitate other such craziness. He aims to convince people that transhumanistic pursuits would benefit our country and humans as a species. Lastly, he wants to reduce the existential risks that could result from such advanced technology, which means thinking about and implementing strategies to prevent everything from 3D-printed body parts to lab-manufactured viruses to killer AI.
Istvan says that his goals “are so simple and obvious, you’d think every politician in the 21st Century would be publicly and passionately pursuing them.” But politicians being politicians, they’ve got other concerns. He has no delusions that he’ll actually become our next president, but he does want people to consider the way our future will be shaped by science, namely that “[t]he future is less about social security, climate change, immigrant border traffic, taxes, terrorism, the economy, and the myriad other issues that flash across news headlines every day–and more about how far we are willing to use science and technology to fundamentally alter the human being and experience.”