The founder of the American Transhumanist party – who is of Hungarian origin – has also joined the rally for the presidential seat. Istvan Zoltan futurologist was born in Los Angeles and at age of 21 he was already travelling around the world as a photojournalist, working for National Geographic, taking as many as 500 books with him. As a reporter he has worked for the biggest media empires, and he recently published a book called The Transhumanist Wager, which became a huge success.
His website is being visited by millions and there are articles published about him daily. These days Istvan Zoltan travels around the states, where he is campaigning as a candidate of science for immortality. Istvan knows that he has no chance in running for presidency, however he is trying to make people understand a little bit more about transhumanism, like a provocateur on a mission. During his travels he gave an interview to one of our American colleagues.
What is transhumanism? Anyone can be a transhumanist – artists, scientists, engineers, philosophers… anyone. The basis of their ideology is that humanity has no limits that are necessary to them, and these boundaries should be erased with the help of science. Due to the advancement in technology, humans will be able to enhance their abilities without limits, and the “creature” that people will become will be more than just mere human beings.
One of the most important – if not the most important – goals of transhumanism is to expand human life expectancy significantly. By “significantly” transhumanist mean hundreds and thousands of years or alternatively the elimination of ageing, that would provide them with a life that is limited in its length, but not in its quality.
Istvan’s parent’s emigrated to the US from Hungary in 1968. They arrived to California in the hope of a better life, where five years later Istvan was born. Istvan is a handsome, tall, blue-eyed blond man with wide shoulders just like a surfer from San Francisco. His attitude is youthful and upbeat, he is very approachable, a great conversationalist and his soothing voice makes him a good public speaker. Istvan — a former journalist for the National Geographic Channel and The New York Times, whose award-winning coverage of the war in Kashmir gained worldwide attention — knows how to tell a compelling story. I am lucky that as a Hungarian photojournalist I could have this interview with him in the USA.
Upon hearing your name, Hungarian readers immediately realize you are of Hungarian heritage yourself. So is it Istvan Zoltan or Zoltan Istvan?
-I was born in America, but my parents came here from Hungary. My full name is Zoltan Istvan Gyurko. I began using Zoltan Istvan for journalism when I was at the National Geographic Channel. Istvan is easier to pronounce and I was appearing on tv quite a bit, so it was easier for the commentators.
What can you tell us about your parents?
-My parents escaped from Communist Hungary in 1968. They went to Austria, and then to Los Angeles, where I was born. My dad started a small business in plastics and was successful. My mother helped my dad run the business. There was about 15 employees.
Your wife is a doctor and you are a father of two beautiful children. What can you tell us about them?
-I have two young daughter, aged 5 and 2. They’re really fun. My wife is an ObGyn, and also has two research degrees in science.
You used to be a reporter for the National Geographic. What were the highlights of this period in your life?
-The highlights were covering humanitarian, wildlife and environmental issues. I felt like at National Geographic I really could tell the world what things were going on around Planet Earth. This was helpful, and many of the nonprofit organizations received donations after my stories came out highlighting their work.
You seem to thrive in dangerous situations. How would you characterize yourself?
-I used to do many dangerous things, and I previously would’ve characterized myself as wild adventurous guy. But now I’m married 6 years and have two kids. I don’t do many dangerous things anymore. I have too much responsibility to my family and my work.
How was the Transhumanist Party founded and how was it received by the American public?
-I founded the Transhumanist Party, and we immediately got together a few officers and advisor, and began building a political platform for the future. So far the American people have received the party somewhat skeptically, but understanding that in the future it might be very important.
Leading futurist, philosopher, and former National Geographic journalist Zoltan Istvan presents his award-winning, bestselling visionary novel, The Transhumanist Wager, as a seminal statement of our times.
How do you view death?
-To me death is a terrible thing and humans should try to overcome it with science and technology. This is the #1 goal of transhumanism.
Could you elaborate on what you mean by conquering human mortality?
-Conquering human mortality means never dying if you don’t want to—it means using science and technology to overcome death, disease, and aging.
Why is artificial intelligence considered so dangerous?
-Because we must be very careful to not have another species on Planet Earth that is far smarter than us—that is if we want to survive and thrive.
I’ve been told that you’ve had a chip implanted in your hand. What is its primary function?
-The chip can bypass security codes, start your car without a key, and transfer information to a smart phone. The new chips allow you to pay at a Starbucks and elsewhere by swiping your hand at a payment machine.
Why did you think this was necessary?
-It’s just fun. It’s also very convenient.
Would you agree that not all parts of the human body can be replaced?
-All parts of the human body can be replaced. We are biological machines. We can recreate the biology and replace parts, or replace them with synthetic parts.
Two U.S. companies specialize in cryonics, in other words, freezing bodies. What exactly does this procedure involve?
-They use liquid nitrogen to freeze bodies in hopes to revive these people in 30 or maybe 60 years when science and medicine can make them young and healthy again. It’s one way transhumanists use to try to overcome death.
These procedures are extremely expensive. Due to social inequality as well as significant differences in quality of life, this would mean that nearly 60% of the world’s population would not be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
-Unfortunately, it is very expensive to organize it right before you die. Most people however use their life insurance to pay for it, so then it’s only like $100 a month. Also, it’s much cheaper if you only freeze your head. In the future, it’s likely you’d have a better robotic body for your brain than your former biological body.
What would an ‘eternal life’ look like? Would you like to live forever?
-I say I’d like to live forever, but I really don’t know if that’s true. My goal is to live a few hundred years—and then see if I want to continue. I probably will want to—just to see how amazing the world becomes.
Is it true that you set up a U.S. Presidential campaign?
-Yes, I’m a 2016 US Presidential candidate, and one of the top 20 most visible candidate. Some people refer to me as the Science Candidate.
Which do you consider more important: becoming President of the United States or achieving immortality?
-I can’t answer this question. They seem one and the same to me, since I would spend all my time in office getting America to create amazing life extension science and technology. So then I could become immortal along with everyone else through that science.
The readership of Lloyd America is predominantly Hungarians. What is it that you would like this audience to know?
I’d like Hungarians to know that science and technology are drastically and quickly changing the world. It’s best to just accept it, since almost always science and technology help the human race. It is possible to use science to overcome death and suffering in the next 25 years for people all around the world. But the world must support this endeavor. And so must Hungary.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rita Gaal, Lloyd America correspondent USA