Zoltan Istvan

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Speaking of immortality, former Transhumanist Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan is the subject of a well-written profile by Mark McConnell in the New York Times Magazine, adapted from his about-to-be-published book, To Be a Machine.

Unlike, say, Bobby Jindal, the newbie pol knew he had no chance of winning the White House, so he resigned himself to stump for radical life extension, gene editing and other futurist dreams–a CRISPR in every pod and a driverless car in every garage!–and ultimately vote for Hillary Clinton. He did so while acknowledging he didn’t dislike Trump, which seemed a puzzling stance to take on someone who was deeply bigoted, anti-science, wholly unqualified and seemingly unhinged.

In a pre-election Ask Me Anything, Istvan explained his preference for a traditional candidate like Clinton despite his outré opinions: 

One main reason is that if Trump becomes President, and gets assassinated, Mike Pence will take office and that could be a disaster for science and tech, especially in the gene editing and AI era.

Trump can live out his term in perfect health and science in the U.S. is still going to get clobbered, much to the delight of China and other countries competing with us.

McConnell, who traveled part of the way with Istvan during his campaign across America aboard the “Immortality Bus,” reflects on the unsettling and, perhaps, enlightening experience. An excerpt:

He confided that his wife, Lisa, a gynecologist who worked for Planned Parenthood, recently started to express a keen interest in his doing something productive with his life. Lisa had just given birth to their second child and, what with the exponentially growing cost of living in the Bay Area, she was becoming increasingly concerned about the need to begin saving for their two daughters’ educations. He explained to me that he was reluctant to fritter away money on such things, given that by the time the girls were in their late teens, it would be possible to upload the informational content of a Harvard or Yale degree directly to their brains and at a fraction of what such an education costs today.

Lisa, he said, was largely tolerant of his views, but drew the line at gambling their children’s futures on the fanciful notion of some imminent technological intervention.

“Obviously she’s a little resistant to transhumanist ideas,” he said, “because in the near future her entire profession will be obsolete. What with actual childbirth becoming a thing of the past. You know, with babies being produced by ectogenesis and whatnot.”

When, some months later, Istvan emailed me about his decision to run for president, I immediately called him. The first thing I asked was what his wife thought of the plan.

“Well, in a way,” he said, “it was Lisa who gave me the idea. Remember how I said she wanted me to do something concrete, get some kind of a proper job?”

“I do,” I said. “Although I’m guessing running for president on the immortality platform was not what she had in mind.” 

“That’s correct,” he confirmed. “It took a little while for her to come around to the idea.”

“How did you break it to her?”

“I left a note on the refrigerator,” he said, “and went out for a couple hours.”

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Transhumanist Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan wants to do things with public lands and prisoners’ brains that I staunchly disagree with, but I ‘ve followed his colorful campaign of outré ideas with great interest. Perhaps I’d have a different feeling in the pit of my stomach if he were a serious contender, but his platform is interesting at a safe distance. At any rate, he’s the only candidate desiring elective surgery to amputate his limbs and replace them with robotic ones. Flat-tax proposals pale by comparison.

In an excellent New Yorker piece, Andrew Marantz profiles a candidate that I (and, probably, you) did not vote for today, revealing details about Istvan’s failed audition to be Gary Johnson’s running mate and his future political plans. The opening:

After watching the least popular Presidential candidates in modern history fight for the country’s highest office, one can’t help wondering whether the problem isn’t the political system but the species itself. Can’t we think bigger? Zoltan Istvan was in town recently, campaigning as the Presidential nominee of the Transhumanist Party. He was on track to appear on the ballot in zero states. “Politicians keep having the same old arguments about tax policy and Social Security,” he said. “Transhumanists want to talk about how science can help us radically transform the human experience, how we can cure death and disease and upload our consciousness into the cloud, things like that.” He was on a street corner in SoHo. It was raining, but he had decided to forgo an umbrella; the spokes can put an eye out, and bionic-eye implants won’t be perfected for at least five years.

He ducked into the Housing Works Bookstore Café, on Crosby Street, and ordered a coffee. Istvan is blond, Ken-doll handsome, and barrel-chested, and the paper cup looked tiny in his hand. “With some of the new robotic-arm prototypes, you get all kinds of cool functionality,” he said. “I could be warming up this cup right now, just with my fingers. Or you could add weapons, flashlights—like a Swiss Army knife. I can’t wait to cut off my arm and get a prosthetic. My wife said she’d only be O.K. with it if it looks and feels like a human arm, which is understandable, I guess.” His wife, Lisa, is an ob-gyn. When they met, on Match.com, Istvan was an entrepreneur with a small real-estate fortune, living in Marin County. After they married, he began driving across the country in a bus shaped like a coffin, protesting death, while Lisa mostly stayed in California with their two daughters. Her attitude toward transhumanism seems to be one of forbearance at best.

Istvan dragged a chair toward a wall of science-fiction novels. “I wrote a sci-fi book once,” he said. It was an Ayn Rand-esque manifesto called The Transhumanist Wager. He added, “I don’t talk about it much these days, because there’s so much authoritarianism in it.”

A man with a wild beard and half a dozen shopping bags got up, and Istvan moved to claim his table. “You a public speaker or something?” the man asked.

“Yeah, sort of,” Istvan said. “I’m running for President.”

“Cool,” the man said. “I’m a filmmaker.”•

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Because Gary Johnson smokes pot and clearly doesn’t bother studying for tests, the Libertarian Presidential candidate has been sort of the cool kid of the class this election season. But Zoltan Istvan, standard-bearer of the Transhumanist Party, is not only in favor of legalizing all drugs in America, he also believes athletes should be on PEDs and we needn’t regulate gene editing. Now that man’s a party!

I’ve really enjoyed writing about Istvan’s ideas over the course of his campaign, even if I’m sometimes aghast at them. The unorthodox pol just did a lively pre-Election Day Ask Me Anything at Reddit, and I’ve embedded a few exchanges below.


Is there a way to protect privacy with technology developing along current trajectory? Big data and more deliberate forms of mass surveillance seem to suggest major social changes concerning and individual’s right to keep secrets.

Will privacy become an anachronism in the next few decades?

Zoltan Istvan:

Everyone hates this, but we must get over our privacy issues. They simply won’t survive the onslaught of tech. My response is to observe the government as much as they want to observe us, so at least it’s a two-way street. Ultimately, though, there’s just too much tech tracking us now and 20 years into the future for privacy to survive as we know it today.


Do you think the claim by a few people that we’ve subverted our natural evolution in favour of becoming a part of a singularity has any kind of credence? What kind of obstacles do you think we still have to overcome for that kind of scenario to be a positive experience?

Zoltan Istvan:

It’s tough to talk about the Singularity since the idea is essentially beyond our comprehension. It’s such a bizarre concept, and yet I believe in it. But we are certainly are subverting our natural evolution, and to those that oppose it, I like to bring up the fact that without basic evolutionary progress, we might still be dying from infections from cavities.


Very good point. So does that mean you tend to believe that we’re more likely to find ways to augment and prolong through methods like, say, nano technology as opposed to shedding physical form entirely?

Zoltan Istvan:

Yes, I think we’ll likely want to stay in semi-human form for as long as possible. Even I’m a bit skeptical to just become intelligent AI or organized star dust.


I believe this to be a long-term solution to technological unemployment that doesn’t involve a huge centralized government agency, but I’ve also come to consider how Basic Income might be useful towards attaining this system. However, I’ve been cautioning against total reliance on this idea, because I realize that almost all governments out there are only out to perpetuate power, and a basic income in a highly automated society represents a great deal of power over citizens who will have no other way to survive besides this common dole.

So my questions are thus:

A. What are your plans involving basic income?

B. Do you believe that Basic Income by itself is enough, or that Vyrdism represents a proper step forward beyond it?

C. Are you concerned by the potential ability of governments to abuse the concept of basic income to enforce a totalitarian order?

Zoltan Istvan:

I highly support a basic income. I can’t see any other way around the situation that is not completely dystopic for the future. I have a plan over 6 years to begin implementing a moderate basic income, which would include higher taxes, companies that create the automation to pay up, and loaning or selling of federal land (we have tons available). With that, we could bridge a few decades of a UBI. After that, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. But capitalism likely won’t survive.

This article of mine is one possibility of an outcome. The lack of any ownership might prevent a totalitarian order. Read here.


and loaning or selling of federal land (we have tons available.

Are you talking about national parks? Would you sell them to entities that will function as a park/nature reserve only or would you allow them to mine or drill for natural resources?

Zoltan Istvan:

National Parks would be last on the list to touch. But there’s plenty of other land just sitting out there. And yes, I’d allow some natural resources to be mined or drilled. But very selectively. We all must take a step back and imagine how many trillions of dollars we’re dealing with here. Half the 11 Western most states are federal land. And our population is barely budging, and the machine age is upon us. I doubt there will be more than a few more human generations behind us anymore. So the land is not as necessary as it once was. We simply might not be entities that eat anymore in 50-100 years. So let’s use that federal land to make our lives better now.


Hey Zolt. Wondering if you can talk a little bit about your thoughts on regulating human enhancement through gene editing methods such as CRISPR. I know as a libertarian-leaning person, you are against agency regulation in general, however, do you feel there is a place for a regulatory agency outside or parallel to the FDA to oversee safety and efficacy of human enhancement and germline modification? Thanks!

Zoltan Istvan:

On this, I just really don’t think we need regulation. I think the greater concern is that China goes full speed ahead with genetic editing and America gets left behind and we dance around whether it’s a good idea–and then shortly after a new generation of Chinese babies are born with better genetic intelligence than everyone else (posing a serious national security and cultural issue). I say embrace it. We don’t need a new agency for gene editing.


Where do Sports fall into the Transhumanist viewpoint?

Zoltan Istvan:

I think sports are great when we allow ourselves to use drugs and enhancements. I think the future is the creation of new sports with new technologies, and turning humans sports more into Formula 1 type racing endeavors, where the scientists and engineers and coaches are just as important as the athletes. Read here.


If the world becomes globalized through tech, can we expect countries to dissolve? Will the world become borderless?

Zoltan Istvan:

Yes, I don’t expect as many countries in 25 years. And in 50, there might only be a few left. Despite BREXIT, I still think we will go borderless at some point. I advocate for this in the future. I think peace will come of it.


Are you voting for yourself in a week, or for one of the other candidates?

Zoltan Istvan:

I’m voting for myself. I will totally understand given all the circumstances if my supporters vote for others though.


Would you endorse one of the other candidates over the other?

Zoltan Istvan:

Yes, in general, I think in swing states, you should vote for Hillary (though I’m not anti-Trump, I just like Hillary better). In Utah, vote Evan McMullin. Everywhere, else I suggest voting for Gary Johnson. If Gary get’s 5% of the vote, the Libertarian Party will get federal funding. That means America will not longer be a 2-party system. Whether you like Libertarians is not the question–it’s a question of overcoming the two party monopoly, which I think is important for democracy.


How do you justify telling people to vote for Hillary though?

I mean she represents everything that people hate about the government right now. From her directly lying to the public and holding no remorse about it, to her husband pardoning criminals on the way out for money, to being under active FBI investigation for deleting evidence after a subpoena

Zoltan Istvan:

One main reason is that is Trump becomes President, and gets assassinated, Mike Pence will take office and that could be a disaster for science and tech, especially in the gene editing and AI era. Read my sci-fi story.

I like Gary Johnson the best. Actually, I like myself the best, but the reality is the choice is between Hillary and Trump. And people must make that choice.•


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In 1789, Benjamin Franklin identified death and taxes as the only things we can be certain of. It wasn’t a completely original quote, but it seemed a permanent truth, with no one betting against the continued presence of graveyards and other shovel-ready projects. Some Futurists would like to make a liar of the most famous kite flier, delivering to our doorsteps a-mortality and post-scarcity, like a couple of pizzas lowered gently by a drone.

On the economic side of things, Transhumanist Presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan, not a fan of tariffs, recently found a kindred soul in visionary Venus Project architect and theorist Jacque Fresco, who even at 100 years old still hopes to radically remake our cash-and-ownership economy into a resource-based one.

In a Vice “Motherboard” piece, Istvan argues that Fresco’s far-out ideas, which would not only eliminate taxes but also currency, may be the best means to preventing violent upheaval should the robots devour all the jobs. An excerpt:

Over the next 20 years, I see automation taking nearly all jobs, and I doubt capitalism will survive that. As a result, I advocate for beginning the process of eliminating taxes and doling out a universal basic income—one that swallows welfare, Social Security, and all health services. Otherwise, I see inequality dramatically growing and an even larger befuddled welfare system than we have now. When robots take all the jobs, I also see civil strife and revolution occurring if corporations and the government don’t give back enough to society.

For me, the most important aspect of the future is to actually get there, and I worry that without giving something to unemployed humans, a dystopic society of violence and chaos will come about. The last thing America—and the scientific community—needs is a civil war.

Some experts have predicted that fully automated luxury communism is the way to go, and it’s a term increasingly being thrown around. Basically, it argues that humans should be pampered by technology, and to do so, communism should finally become the dominant economic system. Fresco doesn’t buy this.

He thinks that if we could just get rid of money and ownership, most of the humanity’s problems would disappear. And he claims only a resource-based economy—an idea he said he’s been working on since he was 13 years old—could do this.

The resource-based economy goes like this: In the future robots will do all the jobs (including creating new robots and fixing broken one). Now, imagine the world is like a public library, where you can borrow any book you want but never own it. Fresco wants all enterprise like this, whether it’s groceries, new tech, gasoline, or alcohol. He wants everything free and eventually provided to us by robots, software, and automation.•

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Cyborgism has long been anathema to most, good only for a plot twist in a summer blockbuster, but I think smartphones have subtly won hearts and minds. Those gadgets have grown so close to our hearts, literally and figuratively. When I see someone greedily devouring information from their phone the second they emerge from a subway, it seems like they’ve already melded with a machine, the moments they’ve spent apart the real aberration. 

Implants have great potential to treat serious illness (e.g. Alzheimer’s) and to augment intelligence (which will happen someday), but certainly we have to be wary of what their intrusion will mean. Regulating biological processes is one thing and making humans uniformly hackable another. With the Internet of Things, we’re placing ourselves inside a machine, and with chips and such the machine will be placed inside of us. 

Jared Keller conducted a Pacific-Standard Q&A with Transhumanist Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan, who thinks the age of bionic organs is upon us, which is probably too aggressive a prediction. An exchange:


Aren’t we already kind of cyborgs? We have pacemakers and subdermal implants, and we treat our smartphones as limbs. The historian David Landes even traced the impact of personal technology like eyeglasses and the wristwatch on the course of human civilization.

Zoltan Istvan:

I would argue that the transhumanist age or the cyborg age or whatever you want to call it is already here. That fact is, we sleep with our phones inches away from us and we often depend on vehicles to take us everywhere; this machine age, where we’re dependent on tools, has been here for years.

But what’s really starting to happen is the integration of technology and synthetic parts into our bodies. Yes, there are millions of people who have dentures and artificial hips; some 350,000 people have brain implants, mostly in the form of cochlear implants that cure deafness, or chips to tackle epilepsy. The age of cyborgism has occurred — it basically occurred about five or six years ago rather quietly.

I’m deeply convinced that, within just a few years, this age of implants is about to explode, and you’re going to see dozens of companies coming onto the market seeking [Food and Drug Administration] approval. Over the next 10 years, the thing that’s going to change our lives is bionic organs, and there are already so many companies out there working on this, from artificial hearts to lungs to livers. We’re going to start electively getting better bionic and artificial organs.•

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Zoltan Istvan’s Presidential campaign has failed, if you grade it on votes and other such mundane things.

The Transhumanist Presidential candidate, however, never was running to win but to raise consciousness about immortality and genetic engineering and other outré matters. Some of his far-reaching ideas are covered in “What to Eat for Breakfast if You Want to Live Forever,” Carey Dunne’s Extra Crispy article. I winced a little when I first read some of his predictions but was happy to discover the phrase “in the next few centuries.” Usually, Transhumanists are so aggressive in their prognostications it really damages their arguments. Even several hundred years is probably too bold for what Istvan proposes, though in its essence, it isn’t really any different than what Sir Martin Rees sees eventually happening.

An excerpt:

As president, Istvan might push for a doughnut tax. “We need guidelines saying doughnuts and things like that are bad,” Istvan says, echoing some current public health advocates. “Humans can’t control their appetites. We need legislation that would discourage people from [unhealthy] eating. I wouldn’t mind creating new taxes for fast foods. They’re just as much of a killer as cigarettes.” 

Anti-doughnut laws would be a provisional measure, though, until we all “become machines.” In Istvan’s transhumanist dream world, breakfast wouldn’t exist at all. “I advocate for getting rid of food entirely,” he says. “I love eating and drinking—that’s why I own a vineyard, Zolisa, in Argentina—but from a transhumanist perspective, it’s a terrible system. Same thing with pooping: Total waste of time, totally nonfunctional. There’s no question we’re gonna get rid of our organs within the next [few centuries]. These things are going the way of the dinos.” For a more efficient system, Istvan predicts, “Biohackers will learn to splice DNA into cells to photosynthesize our energy—that’s the future of the human being, if we remain biological.”•



I recently listened to a decades-old Jack Gariss radio lecture about Arnold Toynbee’s views on history and religion, with the host relating he’d come to disavow certain previously held beliefs in the aftermath of the Apollo moon landing. Gariss felt after Einstein and Armstrong, our place in the center of the universe had vanished. Everything was relative now. “I did not realize how much I’d changed, perhaps we’d all changed, in our perspective,” the spiritual guru said in response to re-reading An Historian’s Approach to Religion. As we aim for Mars and intelligent machines and more, we’re traveling even further from what were once considered indelible truths.

As the world turns, religions are supposed to stay steadfast, to provide a mooring to hold on to as progress runs ahead in other ways. Of course, that’s never been entirely true, as beliefs have continually evolved over centuries, if at a glacial pace. But something different is happening now with the Christian faith, as it’s begun to feel the stress of the rapid transformation of the Digital Age and the increasingly connected Global Village. Can Christianity pivot from its often-harsh Biblical teachings to reinvent itself for our decentralized era? If it somehow did, would that actually be beneficial or harmful to future progress?

In a Salon article, Zoltan Istvan considers the limits of Christian relativism:

In April, the pope made history when he told his flock to accept divorced Catholics. Last week, NPR reported a gay preacher had been ordained as a Baptist minister. Next year it might well be evangelicals in the deep South turning pro-choice. Everywhere around us, traditional Christian theology and its culture is breaking down in hopes of remaining relevant. The reality is with incredible scientific breakthroughs in the 21st century, ubiquitous information via the Internet, and an increasingly nonreligious youth, formal religion has to adapt to survive.  

But can it do so without becoming obsolete? Perhaps more importantly, can Christianity — the world’s largest religion with 2 billion believers — remain the overarching societal power it’s been for millennia? The answer is not an easy one for the old faith-driven guard.

To remain a dominant force throughout the 21st century, formal religion will have to bend. It will have to adapt. It will have to evolve. Hell, it will have to be upgraded. Welcome to the growing impact of Christian relativism.•


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Jaron Lanier has written wisely about how religious fervor can be repurposed in a more algorithmic age, with AI becoming a new faith, the Singularity being anticipated as a Second Coming of sorts. This subtext has come to the surface in certain corners, one being the Church of Perpetual Life in Florida. Bankrolled by wealthy businessperson Bill Faloon, the institution is a sanctuary for belief in radical life extension and a-mortality, things theoretically possible in the very long run but incredibly unlikely to be available to the parishioners hoping to dodge death.

Transhumanist Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan, who’s made mortality’s endgame a central tenet of his campaign, visited the Hollywood house of worship and filed a report for Business Insider. The opening:

Many people think of transhumanism — the belief that humans can evolve through science and tech — as a secular movement. For the most part it is, but there are a number of organizations that aim to combine science and spirituality together.

One of the largest is the Church of Perpetual Lifea brick and mortar worship center near Miami, Florida that looks like any other church. It has a minister, a congregation, and church activities. The only difference is this church wants to use science to conquer death. 

I was asked to speak at a Church of Perpetual Life service while traveling across America on my Immortality Bus — a coffin-like campaign bus I’m using during my run for president of the US (under the guise of the Transhumanist Part). Services at the Church of Perpetual Life don’t revolve around worshiping a deity. They’re passionate exploration of life extension research. It’s a group of people that want to live forever, but also want belong to a spiritual community.

Conversations are centered around how humanity can improve itself through science, how we can overcome death with technology, and how suffering can be broadly eliminated.

The church itself welcomes people of all religions, and sometimes explores concepts of a benign creator in very nonspecific terms.

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Like Jeb Bush, Zoltan Istvan is not going to be President. The difference between the two is that the Transhumanist Party candidate has actually brought to the trail a lot of interesting ideas on radical life extension, bio-hacking, designer babies, algorithmic governance, etc.

It can be shocking stuff, but since none of it’s theoretically impossible, it’s useful to spend time on the topics. Some of Istvan’s vision for tomorrow strikes me as ethically unsavory, and the timeframe he suggests for the mass acceptance of this future is almost always far too aggressive (e.g. people will electively be having their eyeballs replaced with robotic ones within a dozen years). But I do enjoy considering his outré observations. 

From Ian Allison’s piece on Istvan at IBT:

“It’s amazing to me that Hilary Clinton or Jed Bush or Trump will not say anything about designer babies, even though virtually every scientist you talk about says the genetic editing, the gene editing innovations in the last two years have the potential to forever change the human race.

“I mean I have got friends that are trying to grow tails. I have friends that are literally trying to splice plant DNA into their own DNA so that they can go out in the sun and get energy into their cells directly from the sun, so they’d have photosynthesis capabilities.”

Istvan said we are slowly seeing a discursive space where biohackers and transhumanists can share the potential to “mess with themselves”, especially now with DIY DNA CRISPER kits.

“If you think losing our jobs to robots is crazy, I mean people walking around with tails and horns coming out of their head, that’s really crazy and yet, we now have this possibility. I think Transhumanism is wonderful but a lot of the questions are going unanswered because it’s coming so fast and nobody is really quite ready for it.

“I think I shock a lot of people when i say there are six companies out there that are working on a robotic eye and probably within 12-15 years people will start electively replacing one eye so they can have a robotic eye that can then stream media inside that eye that will be tied directly to their optic nerve, they will be able to see literally with accuracy 100 miles, they will be able to see germs on your partner’s body. We are talking about upgrades that people are going to get because they are so much more functional, in the same way that we now carry a smart phone everywhere with us. This is not science fiction anymore – this is very, very close.”•

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Here’s something I feel very good about guaranteeing: Sleep will not be “cured” in 25 years. 

Transhumanist Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan sees things very differently, believing the REM state a “disease,” a dress rehearsal for death, that robs us of waking life. He thinks within a quarter century we might not even need to sleep. I, on the other hand, think much of my self-awareness comes from analyzing my dreams. Beyond that, what Istvan proposes seems not even a remote biological possibility by 2040.

From his article on the topic at Vice Motherboard:

To me, sleeping is a disease. Luckily, in the next 25 years, scientists may cure it. For millions, that cure can’t come soon enough. I hate sleeping and always have. I see sleeping as an early form of dipping in and out of death. Sleeping is probably the most wasteful thing all humans do—we spend a third of our lives in basically a lobotomized state. I wish I could I will myself from doing it, but like everyone else, I’m a slave to my body and mind, and I require sleep to function normally.

While much has been made about how beneficial a good night of sleep is, few discuss that sleeping is stealing away conscious time with loved ones, hampering economies around the world, and even indirectly hurting our bodies. We should never forget we age whether we’re awake or sleeping. And while the studies say the better we sleep the longer we live, this information may be misleading. I believe we age much more in our sleep than our lifespans gain from sleeping well. Sleeping—like being awake—is slowly killing us.

Scientifically speaking, sleep is a process where internal restoration and recuperation of the body and mind takes place. Sleep is comprised of various cycles, which are often separated by two classifications: non-REM and REM sleep.

There are numerous researchers in the world working on ways to try to remain alert despite sleep deprivation.•


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Transhumanist Party Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan’s embrace of techno-fascism might be jarring in another election season, one without talk of Muslim databases and refugees being compared to “rabid dogs,” but it’s almost the least of many evils in 2015.

Well, I certainly don’t want to totalitarianism of any type, carbon or silicon, but Istvan hopes for a day when (kindly) machine overlords are an option. He discusses that possibility, increasing robotization, universal basic income and more in a smart article by Tim Maughan of BBC Future. An excerpt that begins with reference to alt-politician’s sci-fi novel:

The Transhumanist Wager tells the story of Jethro Knights, a philosopher who rails against democratic politics and becomes a revolutionary that seizes control of the world in order to enforce a global authoritarian transhuman regime. It sounds a little like the neoreactionary movement, I suggest, the far-right philosophical movement that believes democracy has failed, and that nations should once again be run by hereditary monarchies. Isn’t that perhaps a worrying storyline from someone running as president?

“I’m distancing myself, I have been, from the book now for a whole year,” he says. “I know the neoreactionary movement really well. I really dislike some of their policies, especially on women… But that said, I do subscribe to some of their strong monarchy ideas where if you actually have a benevolent dictator that could be great for the country.”

I’m a little surprised to hear a presidential candidate openly suggesting this. But that, as it turns out, is very typical for Istvan; he’s not finished. There’s always another angle, some other philosophical surprise up his sleeve.

“In fact it’s one of the reasons why I’ve advocated for an artificial intelligence to become president one day. If we had a truly altruistic entity that was after the best interests of society maybe giving up at least some freedoms would be beneficial if that was truly in our best interests. What’s happened in the past is we’ve had dictators who are selfish, and they’ve done an absolutely terrible job of running countries. But what if you actually had somebody who really was after your best interests, wouldn’t you want him on your team?”•

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I’d like to live forever, but mostly out of spite.

Transhumanist Party candidate Zoltan Istvan has made the quest for immortality the central issue of his quixotic Presidential campaign, because that works on both sides of the aisle, apart from the End of Days-ers. The novice politician has been indefatigable in his mission despite only making small ripples in the mainstream waters thus far. I don’t always agree with his reasoning, but I do wish his ideas would get a public hearing.

At Vice Motherboard, Istvan has published “The Drug Lords of Tomorrow Will Be Biohackers,” a piece about the new drug, a non-drug, which is a chip (for the brain), not a pill. The article looks at the topic from all sides: medicinal, drug abuse, hacking, etc. The opening:

Through various sources—mainly transhumanist biohacker friends—I’ve been hearing about how some drug traffickers might be taking an interest in cranial implant technology.

If scientists can get a brain implant to give neural stimuli that affects our perspectives, moods, and behaviors, then the future of drugs could be totally different than what it is now. In fact, in such a future, drug creation would become the domain of engineers and coders. This could become the next major frontier of the so-called drug market.

About half a million people already have chips connected to their brains. Most of these are cochlear implants to aid against deafness, but some are also deep brain stimulation (DBS) types, sometimes used for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.

Generally speaking, DBS cranial implants work by firing electrical impulses via electrodes into certain regions of the brain. In the case of epileptic patients, they help control seizures.

But improving forms of brain implants may use more EEG technology—a part of the brain-computer interface field—where they can distribute brain waves over a certain portion of the brain. If this portion is one that affects mood—thought to be determined mostly by the amygdala—maybe they’ll be able to give us a real high.

Thync is already an external device claiming to work something like this.•


VW-Werk, Wolfsburg Forschung und Entwicklung Reparatur und Vorbereitung eines Dummy (Testpuppe) für Crash-Test.

Like almost everyone currently running for the American Presidency, Transhumanist Party candidate Zoltan Istvan isn’t getting anywhere near the White House. The difference is, he knows it. The novice politician is campaigning to force cutting-edge biotech and such into the discussion. 

A lot of the issues Istvan is discussing are really interesting to me, though the aggressiveness of Transhumanist predictions often give me pause, and the discourse on genetic engineering can be troubling. At Religion Dispatches, Andrew Aghapour conducted what is probably the best interview yet with Istvan. An excerpt about federal religious subsidies and global warming: 


What do you think of religious subsidies—the approximately $80 billion a year that the American government spends on religious institutions through reduced income, property, and investment taxes?

Zoltan Istvan:

We would remove every single one of those deductions. Of course, I say that knowing that that would be an impossibility. But that would be the goal, to remove those types of incentives [and create] a much more fair playing field for the secular-minded folks out there who also have projects that may not be getting the same types of benefits. I actually don’t want to give benefits to anyone doing these projects. I just think it should be a fair playing field. So the idea is we would try to take away those subsidies and put it back into the system.

Personally, I would put it directly into education. One of our main policies at the Transhumanist Party is we want to provide totally free education. And I’m actually also for mandating that everyone in the country goes to college. In the age of much longer life spans, it’s very likely that anyone under twenty will live to one hundred and fifty years old. So, as a nation, if we’re going to be living longer, we should also probably have longer legal educational periods. So I’m also advocating for making college mandatory, just like high school is mandatory. That way, we have a society that’s much more educated and hopefully better to itself.


What is your position on global warming, and what solutions would you explore as president?

Zoltan Istvan:

Our party, one hundred percent, believes in global warming. There’s no question about it, that it’s happening, and it’s a sad thing. However, there’s also no way to stop global warming at this point. We lost that battle thirty years ago. That was a mistake our species made and we’re now going to have to pay for it. So the Transhumanist Party doesn’t emphasize reducing the carbon footprint as much as it emphasizes the technologies we can use to overcome [its effects.]

What can we do to make it so that the human being can survive any kind of environmental catastrophe? Over the next ten or twenty years, many people are going to become more machine-like. I have a biochip in my hands, my father already has multiple heart [implants], a grandmother has an artificial hip. We are becoming cyborg-like and, when they start coming out with things like robotic hearts and kidneys, there’s no question that we’re going to start remaking our bodies to be much healthier. What would the human being need to survive?

These are the kinds of ways we want to attack the green problem. It is very unique and a bit radical, but unfortunately we blew it as a species and there’s no turning the ship of global warming around any more. It’s too late.•

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Transhumanist Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan penned a Vice article about the influence next-wave technologies may have on violent crime, which he views largely as a form of mental disease. A lot of it is pretty far out there–cranial implants modifying behavior, death-row inmates choosing to be cryogenically frozen, etc. I’ll grant that he’s right on two points:

1) Criminal behavior is modified already in many cases by prescription drugs and psychiatry.

2) Surveillance and tracking, for all the issues they bring, will make it increasingly difficult to stealthily commit traditional crimes.

But debates about cerebral reconditioning and lobotomy? Yikes. Sounds almost criminal.

From Istvan:

One other method that could be considered for death row criminals is cryonics. The movie Minority Report, which features precogs who can see crime activity in the future, show other ways violent criminals are dealt with: namely a form of suspended animation where criminals dream out their lives. So the concept isn’t unheard of. With this in mind, maybe violent criminals even today should legally be given the option for cryonics, to be returned to a living state in the future where the reconditioning of the brain and new preventative technology—such as ubiquitous surveillance—means they could no longer commit violent acts.

Speaking of extreme surveillance—that rapidly growing field of technology also presents near-term alternatives for criminals on death row that might be considered sufficient punishment. We could permanently track and monitor death row criminals. And we could have an ankle brace (or implant) that releases a powerful tranquilizer if violent behavior is reported or attempted.

Surveillance and tracking of criminals would be expensive to monitor, but perhaps in five to 10 years time basic computer recognition programs in charge of drones might be able to do the surveillance affordably. In fact, it might be cheapest just to have a robot follow a violent criminal around all the time, another technology that also should be here in less than a decade’s time. Violent criminals could, for example, only travel in driverless cars approved and monitored by local police, and they’d always be accompanied by some drone or robot caretaker.•



In his Vice Motherboard articleMarriage Won’t Make Sense When Humans Live for 1,000 Years,” Transhumanist Party Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan predicts traditional marriage will become obsolete if radical life extension is realized. Well, sure. In fact, reconsiderations of wedlock will occur without far longer lifespans, driven by much simpler technological and sociological changes. 

Like many Transhumanists, Istvan is so ebullient about the topic that his timelines for progress are incredibly ambitious, unrealistically so. For instance: I’m willing to wager you won’t be leaving your small child at home with a robot nanny within 15 years.

From Istvan:

Social, financial, and religions pressures aside, the deeper philosophical question of the transhumanist age is: Are people really willing to marry for the rest of their lives when those lives may be hundreds or even thousands of years long? This is especially a pertinent question when it’s almost certain coming technology will allow us to radically change who we are in the near future, both physically and mentally.

In a world of indefinite lifespans, the marriage commitment takes on a whole new meaning and level of commitment.

America and many parts of the developed world are losing their religion, however, which certainly will contribute to less social pushing for matrimony. A recent Pew Research Center study found that many young people increasingly possess no religious leanings at all. In just a few decade’s time, if this statistical trajectory holds, younger generations may broadly prefer not to ever marry.

And who can argue with them? Within 15 years, some of the so-called classic advantages of marriage will be gone. Many people will have robot house nannies, driverless cars, and automated stoves that cook for us. In 20 year’s time, we may also use artificial wombs (ectogenesis) to grow babies, and use our own stem cells to provide genetic treatments to build the perfect child. A spouse will simply not be as necessary in the transhumanist age as it once was.•


Transhumanist Party Presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan wants to radically extend life with the aid of organ printing, brain implants, etc. But won’t that lead to a dangerously crowded planet? That was one question asked of the fledgling politician in a smart Q&A conducted by Sarah Fecht of Popular Science. The exchange:

Popular Science:

How can the planet support an immortal population?

Zoltan Istvan:

There’s a very strong chance that within 10 years, most of us will be using IVF techniques and designing our babies. We’ll still probably be using the uterus for another 10 years, but giving birth is something that’s medically dangerous. Eventually there will be artificial wombs. There won’t be such a natural family as we see it now. In 25 or 30 years, making a family will be very much something where you sit in front of a computer, and you decide how you want to do this, and then probably they’ll have something–an aquarium or something in your living room or at the hospital, similar to the Matrix. Again that might be 35 years out, and it’s all dependent upon whether this kind of technology is ethically passed. But I do believe the future of having children will change dramatically, and that will also impact the population levels. You’ll find that people won’t necessarily want to have children if they can spend 100 years in great health.•


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Algorithms might be able to run a corporation, but what about an entire country? With our luck in America, it would probably be the Dubya 2163X.

In an Esquire interview John Hendrickson conducted with Zoltan Istvan, Transhumanist Party Presidential candidate, the technologically progressive contender comments on the potential future intersection of AI and politics, as well as on moral machines and the existential threat of superintelligence. The opening:


Can a robot be president? Can that happen?

Zoltan Istvan:

I have advocated for the use of artificial intelligence to potentially, one day, replace the president of the United States, as well as other politicians. And the reason is that you might actually have an entity that would be truly unselfish, truly not influenced by any type of lobbyist. Now, of course, I’m not [talking about] trying to have a robot today, especially if I’m running for the U.S. presidency. But in the future–maybe 30 years into the future–it’s very possible you could have an artificial intelligence system that can run the country better than a human being.


Why is that?

Zoltan Istvan:

Because human beings are naturally selfish. Human beings are naturally after their own interests. We are geared towards pursuing our own desires, but oftentimes, those desires have contrasts to the benefit of society, at large, or against the benefit of the greater good. Whereas, if you have a machine, you will be able to program that machine to, hopefully, benefit the greatest good, and really go after that. Regardless of any personal interest that the machine might have. I think it’s based on having a more altruistic living entity that would be able to make decisions, rather than a human.


But what happens if people democratically pick a bad robot?

Zoltan Istvan:

So, this is the danger of even thinking this way. Because it’s possible that you could get a robot that might become selfish during its term as president. Or it could be hacked, you know? The hacking could be the number one worry that everyone would have with an artificial intelligence leading the country. But, it could also do something crazy, like malfunction, and maybe we wouldn’t even know if it’s necessarily malfunctioning. This happens all the time in people. But the problem is, that far into the future, it wouldn’t be just one entity that’s closed off into some sort of computer that would be walking around. At that stage, an artificial intelligence that is leading the nation would be totally interconnected with all other machines. That presents another situation, because, potentially, it could just take over everything.

That said, though, let’s say we had an on-and-off switch.•

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It doesn’t seem plausible to me that we’re on the cusp of a-mortality, no matter how many Transhumanists say they believe it to be so. My main disagreement with futurists is that they seem to always think the future is now, that any dream theoretically possible will soon be realized. Usually you have to work awhile to get there. 

But I’d be so happy my head would explode if Transhumanist Party Presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan, was included in the major debates with Hillary and Marco and Jeb, so that he could discuss robot hearts and designer babies. He has as much chance to win the election as Ted Cruz but would be far more interesting to listen to. 

Two questions follow from Roby Guerra’s new h+ interview with Istvan.


Roby Guerra:

Zoltan, Is knowledge the new food? Food for a new type of man of year the year 2000 and beyond? 

Zoltan Istvan:

The new way for human beings to move forward is via cyborgism, where we merge machine parts with the human body. This might include things like robotic hearts, artificial limbs, and mind reading headsets. These are the sorts of new technologies that will make up the modern human being moving forward.


Roby Guerra:

If you were to get elected what would your practical policies be? In addition to supporting transhumanist projects?

Zoltan Istvan:  

The Transhumanist Party supports American values, prosperity, and security.

So the three primary things I would do if I became president are:

1) Attempt to do everything possible to make it so America’s amazing scientists and technologists have resources to overcome human death and aging within 15-20 years–a goal an increasing number of leading scientist think is reachable.

2) Create a cultural mind-set in America that embracing and producing radical technology and science is in the best interest of our nation and species.

3) Create national and global safeguards and programs that protect people against abusive technology and other possible planetary perils we might face as we transition into the transhumanist era.•

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Zoltan Istvan, Transhumanist candidate for next year’s Presidential election, knows he’s not going to be taking his calls at the Oval Office come January 2017, which makes him far more politically self-aware than, say, Ted Cruz. So what is he after with his thus-far self-financed campaign? From a Q&A conducted by Ajai Raj at Medium:


What’s the goal of your campaign?

Zoltan Istvan:

Of course, as you know from reading my articles, there’s no chance of me winning. I’m not even trying to pretend that I’m necessarily going to take votes from anyone — it’s pretty complex to get on all the state ballots and do all these other things. But it’s very likely that I’m going to be involved in some discussions at the higher ranks of politics as to, well, what is this guy really talking about? Should we be considering genetic engineering and talking about it in our political campaigns, for example? I’m hopefully going to have some contact with Hillary Clinton. Al Gore has been a closet transhumanist for literally a decade.

So there’s been some involvement, especially in the liberal parties, and interest in what technology is doing, and interest in how it can help politics. What does Hillary Clinton think about artificial wombs, for example, or designer babies? What about the military controlling artificial intelligence, this technology with the potential to create something with a hundred times the intelligence of a human?

These are not things she wants to talk about, and neither does Mitt Romney [NOTE: This conversation took place before Romney announced that he will not run] or whoever else is going to run, but there’s a good chance if there’s enough press around it, they’ll be forced to deal with it.

The idea is that maybe in 2020, 2024, the Transhumanist Party can become something more significant than what it is now — a brand new startup, in a way.


So it’s about shifting the conversation, and getting some of these transhumanist ideas and concerns out of the fringe and into the mainstream, on people’s TVs.

Zoltan Istvan:

Absolutely. And I don’t mean to take anything away from my own campaign — everyone keeps saying, “Don’t say you’re going to lose” — but I’m just trying to be realistic. Our time might be in four or eight years. But what we can really do this time around is bring the conversation into the public’s view. I believe that I can be included in some debates, especially with other third parties, where we actually get a voice to make a dent, and get people saying, “Well, we really don’t want to talk about these topics, because they’re so controversial. However, it’s probably time we do, because after all, the country is kind of running headlong into the Transhumanist Age.”

You know, we have robotic hearts, bionic eyes, artificial hearing, all this stuff — it’s already here, it’s just a matter of, when we start implementing these things, how the FDA handles it, how the culture of America decides to say, “Wow, is a robotic arm something I’m going to want in ten years if it’s actually better than a human arm?”•

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Zoltan Istvan, your 2016 Transhumanist Party Presidential candidate, is concerned about the geopolitical implications of self-aware AI and is making it a plank of his campaign. I think his timeframe for such superintelligence (in the next 10-20 years) is not even remotely possible and Weak AI will be much more of a political challenge in the next few decades, but I would love to see him debate Jeb and Hillary. From Istvan at Vice:

​Forget about superintelligent AIs being created by a company, university, or a rogue programmer with Einstein-like IQ. Hollywood and its AI-themed movies like Transcendence and Her have misled the public. The launch of the first truly autonomous, self-aware artificial intelligence—one that has the potential to become far smarter than human beings—is a matter of the highest national and global security. Its creation could change the landscape of international politics in a matter of weeks—maybe even days, depending on how fast the intelligence learns to upgrade itself, hack and rewrite the world’s best codes, and utilize weaponry.

In the last year, a chorus of leading technology exp​erts, like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates, have chimed in on the dangers regarding the creation of AI. The idea of a superintelligence on Planet Earth dwarfing the capacity of our own brains is daunting. Will this creation like its creators? Will it embrace human morals? Will it become religious? Will it be peaceful or warlike? The questions are innumerable and the answers are all debatable, but one thing is for sure from a national security perspective: If it’s smarter than us, we want it to be on our side—the human race’s side.

Now take that one step further, and I’m certain another theme regarding AI is just about to emerge—one bound with nationalistic fervor and patriotism. Politicians and military commanders around the world will want this superintelligent machine-mind for their countries and defensive forces. And they’ll want it exclusively. Using AI’s potential power and might for national security strategy is more than obvious—it’s essential to retain leadership in the future world. Inevitably, a worldwide AI arms race is set to begin.

As the 2016 US Presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party, I don’t mind going out on a limb and saying the obvious: I also want AI to belong exclusively to America.•


Jeb and Hillary have company because Zoltan Istvan has announced his intention to run for the U.S. Presidency in 2016 on the Transhumanist Party ticket. The former National Geographic correspondent believes we’ll soon (within a decade) be electively receiving robotic hearts and eventually be living in a post-gender society in which we can choose when and if we die. We will be able to tweet indefinitely! As often is the case with life-extension enthusiasts, his timeframe seems wacky, and replacing a failing organ in a human being shouldn’t be made to sound as simple as switching out a carburetor in a Chevy. Zach Weissmueller of the Libertarian Reason TV interviewed Istvan, so some government-bashing is included.

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