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August 10, 2022

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Meet the Transhumanist presidential candidate who won’t be onstage tonight

Zoltan Istvan

Courtesy of Zoltan Istvan

Zoltan Istvan, the founder of the Transhumanist Party, is running as a third-party candidate for president. He advocates the use of science and technology to overcome death, counteract climate change and eradicate human disabilities.

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Zoltan Istvan, a third-party presidential candidate and an advocate for the use of technology to overcome death, parks his “Immortality Bus” in front of the Venetian on Sept. 9, 2015, during a Las Vegas stop on his nationwide bus tour.

No more obituaries. No more eulogies. No more epitaphs. An eternal life of happiness.

If you think Sen. Bernie Sanders is the presidential candidate advocating the most systemic changes to American life, consider that those are only some of the promises Zoltan Istvan, a third-party candidate, is advocating. He wants to use cutting-edge technology to overcome death, erase disabilities and use brain implants to end depression or rehabilitate convicts.

He will not be on the debate stage at the Wynn tonight.

Istvan, a former combat reporter who invented an extreme sport called volcano boarding, is running for president on idealistic grounds — he admits there’s no chance he’ll win — as the candidate for the Transhumanist Party, as an advocate for mind-bending, reality-distorting, edge-of-science-fiction policies.

With the Democratic debate in Las Vegas scheduled for this evening, we talked to the most interesting candidate you won’t see onstage Tuesday night about climate change, the Terminator and immortality. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Where do you see yourself fitting in on the ideological spectrum?

Zoltan Istvan: I see myself a little bit on the left. I do like Hillary Clinton. That said, the Democrats don’t go far enough in moving the country forward to what we would think of as scientific and technological progress.

How about climate change? Are the Democrats doing enough?

This is where the Transhumanist Party is very different. It’s too late to reduce our carbon footprint. That battle had to be done 20 or 30 years ago. You can’t stop the environmental damage that is happening around the world right now. You can’t stop India and China from developing. They’re going through exactly what America did, which is destroying the planet. So what’s the next step after that? We’re interested in mega-projects that restore the planet to its pristine condition.

Where does that investment come from?

The investment comes definitely from the government.

So how would you fix Social Security?

We would fix it with a universal basic income. You can rest assured that at least 50 to 75 percent of the jobs in America right now will be challenged by robots and software over the next 15 years. We’re going to have to find a method to pay people so they don’t light Molotov cocktails because their job has been replaced by a machine. Ultimately, if we implement (a universal basic income), we will be able to take out a whole bunch of other systems, including a laborious welfare system.

Some of the items that you talk about as posing a possible existential risk to humanity — artificial intelligence, climate change, warfare — are the negative results of technology. So to what extent has technology become a way of cleaning up its own mistakes?

You’re right. By creating artificial intelligence, you create the possibility of the Terminator. But on the whole, I think when you look at living standards, the answer is yes, the world is improving. I generally think science and technology is doing something really good.

What got you interested in immortality?

I had been a conflict-zone reporter for a number of years, working for National Geographic, and I had seen a lot of terrible things. It got me thinking very deeply about life and death. After years of doing that kind of reporting, I said, ‘I’m done with dangerous reporting.’ Something in my head shifted — this idea that I don’t want to die — and I started thinking about how I could dedicate myself to not dying.

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