His name sounds funny to Americans, but presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan says it's totally normal in Hungary, from where his parents hail. Istvan himself was born in Los Angeles and worked for National Geographic for years — a job that led him to explore science, particularly the concept of transhumanism, which posits that people will merge with technology.
Today, Istvan continues to write for Vice, Psychology Today, Gizmodo, and more — when he's not campaigning across the country and promoting the Transhumanist Party platform, which promises better lives — and hopefully immortality — through science. Istvan will speak this Saturday at the Church of Perpetual Life in Hollywood, which promotes the same ideals and which New Times featured in a cover story earlier this year.
Istvan says that as a journalist, he used to cover nature, until "we were in Vietnam and I had a very close call with a land mine. I thought, 'Why don't I write less about nature and the environment and more about science, medicine, and future uses of science to conquer death?'"
After leaving Nat Geo circa 2004, when he was about 28, to take care of his ailing father, he says he made some money in real estate and in 2013, "I wrote a novel called The Transhumanist Wager, which launched my career as a futurist."
Now he's onboard with the Transhumanist Party, which has been established for about 14 months, he says. "It's an actual, organized national party," he says, though you're unlikely to see it on a ballot because it's nearly impossible for small political parties to get on "unless you have almost 50 or 60 million dollars lying around."
The San Francisco resident, who is married to a doctor and has two small children, says a major part of the party platform is to "take money away from the military and put it toward health, medicine, and technology — specifically life-extension technology. We spent $6 trillion on the Iraq War when $1 trillion would cure death."
He says he's not "antimilitary, though." He would defeat ISIS by watching them with drones — little drones with cameras. "We flood them with drone technology — some are the size of a quarter. We set aside a massive budget for drones — say, $100 million to put out a couple hundred thousand drones. We need ISIS to know they are being watched every single moment."
Though the group's terror attack in Paris was a "very terrible thing," he says, "the world came together and felt empathy," and when that happens collectively, he says, there is spike downward in murders around the world.
Istvan says he has a microchip in his hand — one the size of a piece of rice. "It enables me to bypass security systems if I'm coded in correctly, to start a car" and has other applications. Soon, he says, we will be able to wave a chipped hand at a Starbucks barista and do away with wallets and credit cards forever. Infants could be monitored remotely so caretakers could intervene if they were suffocating with SIDS, or malnourished.
He advocates for "completely open borders" and suggests we use this technology to chip refugees coming into the country. Using algorithms, it would be possible to see anomalies — if small groups were meeting and possibly plotting, for instance. It would enable us to geolocate bad guys. People could be monitored to see that they are "contributing to the system — whether they are working, paying taxes, or causing strife."
Yes, it sounds a bit Big Brother, but "maybe Big Brother shouldn't be looked at really negatively," Istvan says. "Maybe Big Brother isn't the bad guy — if he protects us from ISIS."
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If it sounds funny for a tech guy to advocate government tracking in a post-Snowden world, he clarifies that he's "embracing a little bit of surveillance rather than government snooping around."
Despite living in a world where people like to complain about politicians, government is essentially good, Istvan believes. "I like the security it offers me, school systems, public health care. I'm running for president because I want to make it better."
Here is more info on the event at the Church of Perpetual Life.