Revolutionary Politics Are Necessary for Transhumanism to Succeed
Transhumanist Party presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan explains his thoughts on how to move forward.
Image courtesy Zoltan Istvan
Now that my hectic presidential campaign is nearly over, I will be attempting to further integrate the US Transhumanist Party into the futurist community. One way I will do this is by leaving my post as chairman and treasurer of the party, and handing operations over to others in the transhumanist community. But before I do so, I want to explain some of my thoughts and controversial decisions of the past two years as its leading officer.
I formed the Transhumanist Party in October 2014 to be a missing link in the transhumanist social movement—a movement which aims to radically improve human beings with technology and also to wage a war of science against biological death. Up until then, transhumanism had been desperately short on organisations with political emphasis and legal bite. The party, as well as my presidential candidacy, went on to receive much media attention, both nationally and internationally. This helped to grow transhumanism, as did the dozen or so international transhumanist parties that soon formed after the US one.
Despite the overwhelming success and recognition of the Transhumanist Party, over the last 25 months, there has been much contention directed by some in the transhumanist community against the US party and my efforts to promote transhumanism—especially via my presidential candidacy. Some have insisted politics and science shouldn't mix. Others have said I was just out to make a name for myself. Some religious transhumanists accused me of doing the Antichrist's work because I adamantly promoted transhumanism with strong secular undertones.
Read more: What I Learned By Running for President
The culmination of this opposition to my work resulted in a community-wide petition in 2015 to disavow my presidential candidacy. For weeks, the document was shared and spammed in social media, especially into the dozens of major transhumanist Facebook groups. While the petition was signed by some notable transhumanist elders, the sheer lack of signatures—first the petition authors wanted to get 1000 signatures, then they lowered it to 100 when they realized so few people were signing it—showed that the great majority in the community were not against my campaign.
After the petition's lack of success, many of my critics in the community took aim at the US Transhumanist Party itself, questioning through social media posts and articles the party's legitimacy and its legality—and whether we were a Federal Election Committee (FEC) approved political party. (We aren't.) Generally, this antagonism came from elder and academic futurists, and not the quickly growing millennial base of transhumanists that now make up the greater part of the movement.
Let me start by saying, under my leadership, the Transhumanist Party has not striven much to be a so-called "legal" political party. I did try to register the party at the FEC headquarters in Washington DC, but an FEC director quickly turned me down. She explained it takes lots of formal paperwork, lots of incorporated state parties, lots of declared federal party candidates, and lots of bank accounts with money in them to become considered to be a FEC-approved political entity.
As I was leaving the building, the director handed me a 100-page plus manual on how to become a political party in America and properly pay my party taxes. The dense book contained precise regulation on everything from food expenses to lobbying parameters to employee salaries. I laughed. On average, the Transhumanist Party receives about $150 a month in donations, and no one at the party has ever been paid a salary, including me.
Perhaps in the future, the Transhumanist Party will be more formal and recognized by the FEC, but under my care, the US party was not concerned much about laws, membership, rules, etiquette, or what espresso expenses we incurred at Starbucks. For me, the Transhumanist Party was a political vehicle mostly designed for a singular purpose: to create a social environment that facilitates expediently conquering human death using science and technology. Such a purpose is to aim for a near total revolution in the human experience. Therefore, the Transhumanist Party, by nature, is a revolutionary party. I soon threw the FEC manual in a trash bin.
With this in mind, any calls from critics during my tenure to make the Transhumanist Party a more traditional and legal political entity were currently were not of high importance. The other revolutions that have taken place in history—caused by the likes of Robespierre, Gandhi, Mandela, and George Washington, to name a few—also did not follow many rules or worry much about legality. Their strength was in exactly that they were beyond the law and beyond what society considered politically correct.
However, when considering political parties, let's not confuse legality with legitimacy. The US Transhumanist Party is entirely legitimate, and has been from the day it was founded, which is partly why it's become so popular around the world. Legitimacy comes from supporters and citizens. It comes from their actions and ideas—and sometimes from the buildings they occupy by force, the hacks they make on adversary's computers, and even the smoking barrels of their guns.
True legitimacy does not come from a governmental agency such as the Federal Election Committee, the IRS, or a judge with a rubber stamp. And it certainly doesn't come from that unreliable, troll-haven Wikipedia, where the Transhumanist Party page was deleted, despite hundreds of major media articles featuring the party as notable.
That said, whether the party and my presidential campaign was consulting with the US Navy, speaking at the World Bank, opening the popular Financial Times Camp Alphaville, doing an AMA on Reddit's Futurology, interviewing with Anonymous, or being included as a notable new party by the US Archives, it certainly did join the ranks of entities that influenced and broadened American politics. The proof is in Google Trends and internet rankings, where the Transhumanist Party is constantly searched for and gets thousands of daily views.
Beyond the question of legitimacy, though, is a more important aspect of the current Transhumanist Party—its adamant public stance that activism and civil disobedience is necessary and desirable. When I publicly said—at least a few times—that the party and I wanted to rewrite parts of the US Constitution, I meant it.
After all, we didn't drive our Immortality Bus across America to deliver a Transhumanist Bill of Rights to the US Capitol because we agree with America and its policies. We drove that bus and delivered that document precisely because we disagree. And we did this despite our love of the core of America—because, after all, the USA is an amazing nation. It just can be significantly improved—and should be.
The posting and delivery of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights was partially an act of civil disobedience, and I endorse such actions so long as America continues to betray its citizens with deathist policies and regulations endorsed by the past 43 religious US presidents. Nearly 250 years after America was founded, it's finally time we get someone in office who makes decisions and passes laws based entirely on reason and the scientific method. It's impossible for a religious president, a religious Supreme Court, and a 100 percent religious US Congress (all who state they publicly believe in afterlives) to care enough about medical, scientific, and technological progress when they all think they're going to be immortal angels in heaven someday.
You may not agree with that fact. You may think the Transhumanist Party and my own presidential campaign are too extreme. But I assure you that losing a friend to cancer, or a child to a car accident, or one's mind to Alzheimer's justifies our steadfast dedication. In the 21st century, with the resources our country has and the know-how of our amazing scientists and technologists, we can in 25 year's time change all this. We can eliminate most suffering, most disease, and even death for everyone—if we simply would just put all our energy into it. That would be the greatest, most positive revolution in the history of America and of the world.
Whatever happens, no one is forcing the critics in the futurist communities to support the Transhumanist Party. People can go off and form their own parties, support their own candidates, and advocate for whatever they want in their own ways. In fact, I think the more science and technology parties we have, the better.
Politics and minor third parties are a great way to push burgeoning movements like transhumanism forward. Unfortunately, along the way, it's impossible to make everyone happy—and critics and naysayers will be ubiquitous. But if the greater good has been served and progress has been made, then we should acknowledge that entities like the Transhumanist Party—revolutionary or not—have played a helping hand in positively moving the world forward.
Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, author of The Transhumanist Wager, and the 2016 Presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard in which he ruminates on the future beyond human ability.