We had the amazing opportunity to interview Mr. Zoltan Istvan. In this interview, he tells us about how radical science and technology can be used as a tool for human evolution to make our lives and society better. As a transhumanist who is very much into cryptocurrency and bitcoin, he describes himself as a wanting to become an intermediary between the scientists and the people, where he can create a cycle of “funding the scientist through the people to give back to the people”. Another topic he mentioned is that not all the super-rich want to become gods. Please read and find out why.
Interview Date : 20th May 2020
- Zoltan Istvan (All Interviews)
- Transhumanism Movement
- Most Super-rich don't want to become God
- Most Transhumanists are Pro-Bitcoin
- Using Bitcoin in Presidential Campaigns
- Crossing the Line of Chaos
- Human Augmentation
- New Age of Paralympics
- A not-functioning Colonial Capitalism
- Universal Basic Income through Blockchain
- Educate People about Money
- Trust not the Media but Trustworthy Journalists
Zoltan Istvan (All Interviews)
A transhumanist is somebody who wants to use radical science and technology to modify the human being and life in society better. Transhumanism is a social movement of many millions of people that want to use science and technology to radically modify the human being and also modify the human body.
It can be like anything from exoskeleton technology that allows a disabled person to walk again or a brain implant that allows you to commune directly with artificial intelligence. It can be something like genetic editing where you might try to regrow a third arm. But whatever it is, it’s always radical science and technology.
The opposite of that, at least in America, would be very strong religious views that say “don’t modify anything about the human body because the human body was put here by God as its perfect kind of form”. In America, we have many people who think that transhumanism is very evil. They don’t want to use science and technology in their lives to change the form of the human body. So that’s what I think would be the exact opposite of transhumanism.
There are often conflicts that you read about in the media and the news about people who say “ transhumanists are really bad people because they want to change the human species to become something different.” But for us, it’s never about changing the human body, it’s always about “how can we best achieve perfect health” ”How can we live the longest so people don’t have to die” and that is just using medical science and technology.
However, in reality, things keep getting wilder and more radical every 5 to 10 years. Eventually, we will be machines, we won’t breathe oxygen, we won’t eat food, and one day we will be truly something else that is still able to think and be ourselves but something that is very quite different at the same time. Now this might be 100 years from now, but that is the evolutionary pattern that we are following.
I think everything will change. The reason everything changes is because technology changes. Biology is strong and that is why our hearts fail after 70~80 years, or our brains and thoughts grow old because biology was not designed to last forever. However, if you talk about machines, like computers for example, a normal functioning computer can go on for thousands of years without wearing itself down if you take proper precautions. That is really why transhumanists want to integrate themselves into synthetic parts; parts that are not biological but that are much more manmade and synthetically or machine made with titanium, silicone, etc.
Most Super-rich don’t want to become God
The number one goal of transhumanism is to try to overcome death with science and technology. There are 2 critics that we always get. The first is “ if no one dies, how will the world deal with overpopulation?” and honestly, that’s a very good critic and a good question. We are not 100% percent sure. Maybe we are destroying the planet through overdevelopment and overpopulation on planet earth. A scenario where nobody dies in the transhuman stage and we have 20 billion people might be an issue. That is a fair enough critic and hopefully we will figure out ways around it. However, the other critic which comes up a lot is “ how do we make sure that the super-rich doesn’t take those radical technologies, and apply them only to themselves leaving the rest of us behind?”.
In this age of democracy mostly around the world, I don’t believe that people like for example Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates and other people like that, want to be gods themselves and leave the rest of us behind. I believe they are just people who had good business minds, got lucky, became very wealthy and now they probably want to help. Bill Gates for example is doing social work to help humanity with a lot of his wealth, and I think the last thing he wants to do is to leave all of us behind so that he can become some great god. When people put up that critic, I just don’t find that be the case, and most very wealthy people almost more obliged to help the rest of us. Maybe 100 years ago it was a different world, but now it seems like that to some extent the super-rich especially in the field of technology and transhumans field, care about humanity.
Most Transhumanists are Pro-Bitcoin
Most transhumanists support crypto, and when I ran in 2016 in my presidential campaign for the Transhumanist Party , I was one of the very first presidential candidates to ever take Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. I think it is a fascinating thing, it is awesome and I do own some myself. However, for me what is even more important than cryptocurrency is blockchain technology. Blockchain technology is going to revolutionize how the world operates. That can be anything from marriage licenses, passports, real estate transactions to the way we deal with money. The blockchain out there, as soon as we get more and more companies to implement it, it will have a transformative effect on society. It will screen-line everything and make it safe, make things more functional, and easier to access all the kinds of things that we want in a trustworthy manner. I am not certain about which coin will end up winning because I don’t think every one of them will survive. There is a good chance that at some point the cryptocurrency replaces the US dollar or at least gets directly tagged to the US dollar. That will be more functional, quicker, digital, safer, etc. so I have been a big supporter of these types of technologies. It is especially blockchain that I think from a political point of view could very much revolutionize the world.
Not in the 2020 election but by the elections in 2024, at least here in the United States we will have discussed whether we should implement blockchain technology in the presidential elections. Will we accept something that like that this soon on such a big scale? Maybe it first will take place in a government or lower-level offices. However the fact is that technology is essentially already here, and we have already proven the safeguards. Now, the real question is “can we get other people, the people themselves, to trust it?” In America, half of the population is made up of senior citizens and they want to write something down on paper. If they don’t see the paper they get scared. Now, this is even worse with the internet and blockchain in terms of it being so new. What they don’t realize though is, blockchain is going to be perfectly safe and it has the potential of making elections much safer. So you can trust the blockchain just like you would in a piece of paper. I might not trust the internet, but the blockchain is quite different. It is virtually unhackable and if we can build a voting scenario around that, I think that would be a huge boom in terms of credibility in elections.
Right now, it is like half the elections you read about whether its Russia or even America sometimes, you can’t tell if it’s fair, you don’t know what’s going on. Once you have blockchain the credibility goes up and we start believing that “this candidate won at the elections, you can verify it by looking at it in the ledger “.
Using Bitcoin in Presidential Campaigns
I have raised political funds with Bitcoin for the Transhumanist party in 2016. I began that campaign back in 2014, and so in 2015, I was one of the very first candidates to accept Bitcoin. Back then, it was kind of revolutionary. As a science political party, and we did and still do support cryptocurrency. When we talk about the radical top 10% of science, that includes cryptocurrency as well. It is a brand new way of dealing with money and exchangeable value. So, it seemed very natural for my team, and I thought “why don’t we accept Bitcoin?” At the time, we were not very savvy with the other coins as none of us were true cryptocurrency experts, and again this is 2015 before the big explosion of Bitcoin. However, we adopted it, and it was great.
When we first got into Bitcoin in the beginning, at the time, Bitcoin was trading for a very low price. Honestly, we were so disorganized, and the campaigns get so crazy that we lost some of it and were never able to find it again. It wasn’t a huge amount of money even when it was at 20 000 dollars, but we were very new to taking Bitcoin for donations. I think it is a fabulous, quick, and efficient way of doing business completely private, and you do not need to worry about your business being tracked by a third party. A transhumanist looks for functionality. We look for the ability to do things in a simple efficient and fast manner, the kind of way may be a machine would do. So, cryptocurrency makes perfect sense to us because of that.
Crossing the Line of Chaos
I subscribe to most libertarian values because they are big supporters of crypto, blockchain, and big supporters of “do whatever you want to do and keep your hands off me”.
That is a good perspective, and I have been a libertarian for a long time. My novel “The Transhumanist Wager” is the best selling libertarian novel of the century and describes the libertarian ideologies. However, libertarians can at certain times go too far in their wish of freedom in their wish of what almost becomes anarchy. I am not one of those libertarians that are far out there. I am more of a center libertarian, somebody that says “ it is good to have government as long as the government is transparent and voted for democratically“.
However, I have experienced that some of the libertarians I deal with, they do not want driver licenses or stoplights, and such ideologies that can cross the border. I am kind of right in the middle with a lot of the values.
We need to be a little realistic. If not, imagine if libertarianism had a complete free-for-all with cryptocurrencies, who make sure that somebody does not hack or steal anything. Even most libertarians will say “we need a national decentralized managing organization” or ”we need police”. They might not want firefighters (I would like to have firefighters), but at some basic level, you have to have some governmental services that stand for the best interest of the people. The key to that lies in making sure that the back garden is very transparent, and it answers to the people.
What is or is not Human Augmentation depends. Transhumanism is usually the top 10% of the radical science and technology that are out there. It is hard to know what, exactly, human augmentation is because of the rapid change in the field. Now, to some extent, human augmentation has been quite popular, like most grandmothers have an artificial hip, a lot of people have orthodontic treatments, etc. Would we call this human augmentation? Technically yes, it is.
This type of human augmentation is a way that 1 in 4 people, especially senior citizens, have something like a metal plate inside their bodies. So, we have already crossed over to the line of cyber and human augmentations. However, what is human augmentation, is when something is elective.
For example, I have a chip in my hand that opens my front door, start my car, trade Bitcoin, etc. This example is a little bit more like real human augmentation because I have chosen to do this and not for any medical reason. I enjoy the idea of putting things into my body and changing who I am. That is that more transhumanists would call “Human Augmentation”. It is funny to see many older people have things in their bodies like a pump valve or something similar, so human augmentation itself.
New Age of Paralympics
The paralympic already crosses over to the transhumanist age. For example, when you talk about some of the sprinters who use the blades, they can sprint almost as fast as humans today. Maybe in 5 years, they will be able to sprint faster than an ordinary human body, and so now you are crossing over to the transhumanist angle.
Now, a game called cybathlon has become part of the Paralympics. Cybathlon is the world’s first cyber Olympics, where you mostly have disabled people who are putting on headsets that allow them to ride a bicycle. Even though they have no leg, they race around the track by thinking in your brains to get their artificial legs getting to work. I wrote an article about this for the New York Times recently, and this is a new type of Olympics that is even more than the Paralympics. We call it the Cyber Olympics. It required an immense amount of technology, especially brain wave technology: the kind of technology where your brain waves are bound to an artificial limb. By using that, it is not your legs that will be running, but it will now be a robotic leg that you can move through your brain activity. It is a fascinating technology, and many people need this kind of technology, like people who maybe cannot move their arms or legs. The Cyber Olympic and other such events and competitions help spur the development of these technologies so that the average person who maybe gets in a terrible accident can now have mobility and continue a somewhat regular life.
A not-functioning Colonial Capitalism
I also believe that, at some point, there might be an enormous explosion in terms of the system collapsing. We almost saw a collapse in 2008 with the loans, and who knows what will happen because of the coronavirus. America is talking about going to negative rates, and they are printing all this money. You cannot just print money, because money represents food, housing, and materials, etc., so you need real value. The more you print, the more inflation will happen, and so many more problems get started. The monetary system is fake.
What I think might sink the system almost more than just paper currency is the concept of colonialism; there are so many big capitalists out there who are not playing by fair rules. These usually are rules everybody might agree to, like legal rules.
There is a vicious circle of super-rich people having control over the market. For example, Trump gives all his money to his big business buddies, and the big business buddies circulate all of it to the big businesses. Eventually, the people will revolt, especially as inequality grows. That is where cryptocurrency can come in. It is not like we are all going to go out with our pitchforks against the super-rich, but more like, we are going to look for alternatives on how we can make ourselves survive, thrive and prosper in a way that does not rely on the big banks or the big giant pharmaceutical companies for drugs. The whole system in itself is distorted, which why Bitcoin has such a massive following with libertarians and other people. There is a sense that we can use cryptocurrency to free ourselves from the chains that capitalism has put on us.
I like capitalism, but what we have here in America is not true capitalism; it is colonial capitalism. It is more like an oligarch, where a group of wealthy people pass money to another group of wealthy people. In America, for example, we have 48% of people that have some kind of government support. Even now, during the coronavirus shutdown here in California and the rest of the country, corporations are trying to invite workers to go back to work. However, people make more money from the government by staying at home than they do at work. The system has become completely screwed up. We need a system where you work hard, you get your cryptocurrency, and nobody can take it from you. Also, the cryptocurrency coin shall be worth a loaf of bread and other commodities. It needs to be a fair system. If it is not equitable, it will collapse.
Universal Basic Income through Blockchain
I support a universal basic income. A libertarian version of that is based on taking federal land of the 200 trillion dollars of untouched federal land of forests, mining facilities, etc. that America has. We have preserved it for preserving nature but in California 25 % of everybody is right at the poverty line. This means that millions of children are hungry at night. you wouldn’t think America has hungry children, but we have 10 to 15 million hungry children every night. I want to take some of our natural resources and distribute them to people so we can take care of poverty. I wouldn’t mind doing that in payments through cryptocurrency or anything similar that facilitates and also makes the operation completely transparent.
Let’s say the people will not listen to me and say “Zoltan wants to take some of the federal lands, lease it out to big businesses, and the big business would then pay the people for the land. After all, the land belongs to the people and not the government”. The problem is that by that time, a lot of lawyers, bureaucrats, and governments get involved in the scene. In the end, there is so little money left for the people and this is where we are talking about colonial capitalism that comes in. It is just not trustworthy. What we need is, if we had a cryptocurrency or a blockchain ledger that comes down from where the leasing comes, the basic income would be dramatically more and transparent. Every American citizen would get the same amount. That kind of system is much more credible. It is not just “we are leasing out federal land” action, but we are leasing out federal land and the people are guaranteed to get your payment in cryptocurrency form set by a computer and shall come in every month. It does not touch the hand of the government or any intermediary person, and that way you can trust it.
Right now the government is giving out money, however, 30% of the people in America have still not received their coronavirus money. Now it is 8~9 weeks into this lockdown quarantine, so how do you pay rent when you are already 9 weeks late and you have not received money? It is a bigger system than just the cryptocurrency working or not working. It is a system where a lot of the colony capitalists need to get on a system that is fair for the common person. That is why I like cryptocurrency. It is not just about fair or not fair. It’s simply built in to the system and is what it is. That is why I think it would be very useful.
Recently, we have seen Facebook or China go towards something like that. I wouldn’t surprised if America would come up with something like that. But I think that eventually, we are all going to go in that direction because we can trust it.
Educate People about Money
I would support the idea of having a subject dedicated to teaching about money and value in the educational system. It is hard for me to speak about other nations, but I think one of the problems here in America is that a lot of people come out of school without knowing how to trade or without knowing how to do something. For example, I know how to build houses, because that is what I did before I was a journalist. So no matter what happens I can at least use my hands, go get a job, etc. However, what good is a job when I don’t know how to use money? What good is a job when if I just take the money and spend it on unnecessary things, goods, alcohol, etc?
Teaching people about money in the sense of value is very important, and we do that through teaching by history, like the great depression, and ask why did that happen? During the recession when the bankers had borrowed way too much on the crazy roads, and even now coronavirus which maybe has nothing to do with anybody but we still have to be worried in economic ways about something coming from nature like this.
This is where teaching people about basic money, savings, having some money in the shoebox, having a little gold, having some Bitcoin comes in play. Not only do I have real estate but I have a sailboat, a vineyard in case it gets bad I can go there and grow food. I have a ton of seeds in the basement, cryptocurrency, a little gold, and some guns. It is not because I haven’t used any of these and hopefully I won’t have to, but I have these things because when I started my career as a journalist at National Geographic and I covered war zones and conflict zones. Once you have been to conflict zones, you realize that people lose everything overnight, and so you always need to have diversity. You need to have different types and sources of value so that if somebody would take away 40% of your value, you still have 60% left somewhere. It sounds so smart but it does take a lot and you have to teach it to people. Maybe I would not have been taught if I had not been to war zones, and seen families out in the street that used to be rich.
Trust not the Media but Trustworthy Journalists
I follow Elon Musk , Andrew Yang who now is a leader in the field of basic income even though he wants to raise taxes to put forward universal basic income, and I am not on board with that because by universal basic income doesn’t raise taxes, but that is ok. I also follow John Mcafee, he is a friend of mine. I follow many libertarians and many of the great journalists. I think it is important to separate, some media is not good anymore and some journalists are very good, you can always trust them and their stories. So there are different people like that but since I write for the New York times I also follow quite a few New York Times journalists.
Interviewer , Editor : Lina Kamada
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