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Meet the Microchipped Transhumanist ‘Cyborg’ Who’s Running Against Trump in the 2020 GOP Primary

Zoltan Istvan, a transhumanist journalist, is running for the U.S. presidency as a Republican in 2020, challenging President Donald Trump in the primary.

Istvan, who also ran for president in 2016 on a lesser scale, has written for The New York Times, Vice, and National Geographic, and describes himself as “the founder of the Transhumanist Party, the original author of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, and a frequently interviewed expert on AI, genetic editing, tech policy, and futurism.”

His campaign policies for 2020 range from the relatively normal to the quite absurd, from ending the drug war, beating China in the artificial intelligence race, restoring the environment, and providing universal basic income for all, to the development of artificial wombs, “nearly open borders,” stopping “mass shootings and terrorism with drones, robots, AI scanners, and other technology,” and licensing parents, or as Istvan explained, requiring “prospective parents to pass a series of basic tests, similar to a DMV driving test, to quality and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.”

As a passionate transhumanist (or, as philosopher Max More explains, someone who supports the “evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology”), reportedly with a microchip in his hand that allows him to open doors and use his phone, Istvan also wants the Republican Party to reclaim transhumanism from the “far-left.”

This week, Mediaite got the opportunity to talk with Istvan about his 2020 campaign and the policies within.

Your campaign policies are very interesting. Typical libertarian policies mixed with some quite out-there stuff like artificial wombs, “nearly open borders,” and stopping borders with drones. What was the inspiration behind such an odd variety of campaign focuses?

I was busted for dealing marijuana I guess maybe 26 years ago, where I was convicted of a felony conviction for distribution of narcotics, which also made me highly libertarian kind of from the start of my adult years. And then as I went through the National Geographic days I began to try to think about what would be better policy so we didn’t get in these wars all the time and the government sort of left us alone. But at the same time, it’s not that I want to be left alone entirely. I think there should be some safety nets.

If you look through some of my 2020 plans you’ll see there’s a lot of liberalism built into it, so it kind of tries to take the very best parts from all the different ideologies that are out there and put it in one. To be honest, I just don’t understand why there can’t be conservative people like myself who are totally socially liberal, and while that’s classic libertarianism, the reality is that the Libertarian Party just doesn’t have enough connections, money, and all these other things to run campaigns that can actually win office, which is ultimately why I’m now with the Republicans trying to make a difference, trying to get people that might be fiscally conservative to have some sensibility when it comes to being more open-minded.

You say on your campaign website that you’re trying to reclaim transhumanism from the far-left. What do you mean by that?

That’s probably my number one policy goal right now, and it’s because what’s happened recently, at least in the last four or five years, is it seems like transhumanism has been growing dramatically. I’m excited about that, but it’s also growing dramatically to the left, and if it continues to grow and grow in that direction it means that it will be almost this socialist dystopia, in my opinion, where everyone thinks they own everything and they can just do what they want.

Innovation, capitalism — and I’m saying this from an entrepreneur of twenty years — it requires free markets in many ways to come up with these creative ideas in the first place. We all love going to Europe. We all love the quasi-socialism that they have there when we’re there. But Europe hasn’t really created anything innovative in fifty years. I mean not much when you compare to, let’s say, America. We want to be careful that in order for transhumanism to survive, it doesn’t fall into the hands of the new breed of socialists that America is contending with. Silicon Valley is going that direction, I’ve been watching that happen over the last ten years, and so I thought it was finally time somebody stood up and said, ‘Wait a second, we need a better balance here. We need a balance of people who are willing to innovate in libertarian-minded economical ideals without bowing down to the far left.’

So do you think transhumanism would die out if we did end up with a socialist society?

No. I don’t think it would die out. I just think… so you gotta understand the number one goal of transhumanism is really to try to overcome biological death by finding technology. And really, what happens when you put socialism into medicine and some of these other things, innovation dramatically stops. So somebody like myself who’s 46-years-old, and of course all the other older people that have been involved in the movement forever, if innovation and science and all that other stuff stopped just even for ten or fifteen years, or doesn’t go as fast as it is, a huge amount of extra people won’t make it to this new generation where we’ll have all these different techniques to keep people alive.

So there’s actually a race going on. A race to keep transhumanism in kind of this capitalistic, libertarian somewhat framework so that innovation continues to move forward and that people like myself will have a chance in thirty years to actually benefit from these life extension medications and innovations that come out.

If we are able to overcome death with science by 2030 versus the year 2050, over one billion lives will be saved. So the meaning here is incredibly important, which is why I’m very cautious about socialists being in charge.

Are you not worried that we could end up with a Fallout: New Vegas Mr. House situation, where you have a really really rich guy, or a bunch of rich people who are practically living forever, while no one else can get access to this technology?

That is one of my number one fears.

First of all, from a transhumanist perspective, if everyone lives forever, we’re going to have overpopulation problems, and I already believe we have overpopulation problems. You can see the climate changing and things like that.

But I think the other one is, what’s to keep the Mark Zuckerbergs and the other people of the world from taking this radical technology, using it on themselves, and leaving the rest of us behind? This is where I lose a little bit of my libertarianism, and all the libertarians get mad at me. I actually think under these circumstances there should be some government mandate when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to different types of rights to life extension. That we should all have some type of a universal right to life extension and some of these medicines, even it requires government grants and things like that, because the very last thing that I want to do is create a world where only the one percent has access to these technologies, or even beyond the one percent, and the rest of the people get left behind in some kind of dystopia.

So, this is where I kind of break down and say a little bit of big government is fine, especially if it’s going to protect and make sure everyone has benefits to this new future that we’re talking about: the Transhumanist Age.

Do you think there are already some minor life extension schemes going on in the one percent?

I don’t believe that there’s a conspiracy going on with the one percent, because if it is, I haven’t heard about it. There are companies like Human Longevity. They cater only to the very wealthy… But it’s not that they don’t cater to the super poor, it’s just that their prices are expensive and they’re not covered by insurance, so only the very wealthy use them.

I would be very surprised if even someone like Peter Thiel has a very strict regiment of kind of undercover, secretive longevity people. I think we’re all working on this together. We realize the humanitarian aspects of making us all live longer. The person who could come up with the magic pill, or 3D-printing organs, however we’re going to keep ourselves alive longer, I think not only is it the most important capitalistic thing — someone’s going to become a trillionaire off these kinds of innovations — but I also think there’s a very deep humanitarian aspect to share with your family, your friends. So I don’t think people are hording this technology. I just don’t think we’ve come up with the right technologies yet.

But if you look at the statistics, five years ago this was maybe a one or two billion dollar industry when you talk about longevity, and Bank of America recently said it’s going to be a 600 billion industry by 2025. I mean it is skyrocketing in terms of venture capital and investment. A lot of money is coming into it, so I hope by now in the next two to five years you’re going to have a lot more innovation and announcement.

It seems like you’re putting up more of a fight this primary to beat President Trump. Last election you put up a fight, but you weren’t listed on the ballots, whereas this time you’re going to be listed on some the ballots, right?

Yeah, we’re going to be on basically all the ballots we can be until Super Tuesday, and we’re going to see how we do. We’re spending a lot of our funding for ballot access right now, but that’s okay. What happened is the first time around, I had some unique ideas. Of course, I had been a writer for a lot of major media, and so people listened and they liked those ideas, but for the Transhumanist Party as an independent, you really can’t make any ground unless you have ballot access.

We’re hoping that if we do well in New Hampshire, and we’re hoping that if we do well in Iowa, maybe get a few delegates here, then we could all of a sudden take it to the next level and make a real push to try to compete against Trump.

I’d be lying to you if I said, ‘Look, I think we’re going to win this thing.’ That’s not really what we’re trying to do. What we’re trying to do is get the attention of the Republican Party and say, ‘Isn’t it time there could be a new way of looking at things? Does it always have to be fiscally conservative and also conservative moral values? Why doesn’t the Republican Party open itself up to socially liberal values? They would make a lot more room for people like myself who fit right there in the middle. Who don’t want to necessarily give up all their money to the government, but also want to say to people, ‘Hey you can do exactly what you want to do with your body.’ This is something that I don’t think the Republican Party has had yet from any kind of public figure or anyone who’s run a real viable campaign.

If you could address Republican voters right now with a short statement, what would you say?

The premise here with Trump is that we were promised greatness, and that sounded kind of neat in the beginning, and I was excited not to have an attorney at the top of the chain of command in America, but it turns out that Trump didn’t really deliver that.

All we have are these squabbles in America. It seems like people’s views are just attacking each other. I really think it’s time not only just for a professional to be in the White House, but for somebody with really brand new ideas. And I don’t mean empty the swamp. I mean let’s fly above the swamp. Why do we even need to be in the swamp anymore? This is the kind of thing I’m trying to bring.

Photo courtesy of Zoltan Istvan.

This interview has been edited and condensed for content and clarity.

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