An Even Stranger Presidential Candidate

Biopolitical Times
Zoltan Istvan Poster, depicting him as an illustration. Text reads "The Transhumanist Party builds the Future... Putting Science, Health, and Technology at the forefront of American poltiics. "

Some years ago, in deepest Asia, an American was reportedly kidnapped and hypnotized into doing his captors' bidding any time the Queen of Diamonds was played. Oh, wait, that was the Manchurian Candidate (1, 2, 3). We're talking about the Transhumanist Candidate. Let’s start again.

If you pay attention to the lamestream media, as a former VP candidate called our mighty organs, you may think that the pool of those running for President has or soon will have tightened from 23 (six D’s, don’t forget Lessig, and seventeen R’s) to two. You would be wrong.

In fact, it has shrunk from 1,711 to something like ten. According to Ballotpedia, four Democrats other than Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders) will be on more than 5% of presidential ballots, along with two repeat offenders (Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein) and possibly Jesse “The Body" Ventura. Add in He Trump, and that makes nine. But wait, there’s more!

Zoltan Istvan is running.

The Federal Election Commission, stick-in-the-muds that they are, insist on calling him Zoltan Istvan Gyurko. He calls himself an American-Hungarian but this Magyar site seems to say, according to Google Translate, that he is a Hungarian-born American. That could cause a bit of difficulty, though certain other candidates seem to have evaded or redefined the “native-born” requirement. [ETA: He was born in Los Angeles, after his parents escaped from Hungary.]

Also, the FEC lists his party affiliation as “Other.” But Zoltan is actually running on behalf of the Transhumanist Party. The two other officers are Zoltan’s wife Dr. Lisa Memmel (who is an ob-gyn) and a big fan currently writing a “guide book” to Istvan’s transhumanist philosophy. The advisors include Aubrey de Grey and Gabriel (son of Martine) Rothblatt, as well as one of the Alcor Directors, and other low-wattage luminaries.

The short version of his platform is:

The Transhumanist Party and Zoltan Istvan's US Presidential campaign is politically-centric. It aims to support voters with future-inspired policies that will enrich America and the world. We believe science and technology can solve most of the world's problems.

Among the specifics are:

  • Lay groundwork for rights for other future advanced sapient beings like conscious robots and cyborgs.
  • Create stronger government awareness and policies to protect against existential risk (including artificial intelligence, plagues, asteroids, climate change, and nuclear warfare and disaster) [but not including protection of humans qua humans]
  • Implement policy for the phasing out of all individual taxes based on robots taking most jobs in the next 25 years. Advocate for a flat tax until we reach that point.
  • Develop international consortium to create a "Transhumanist Olympics”
  • Encourage private industry to develop and support usage of a cranial trauma alert chip that notifies emergency crews of extreme trauma (this will significantly reduce domestic violence, crime, and tragedy in America)
  • Work to use science and technology to be able to eliminate all disabilities in humans who have them.

But the big deal is downplayed in the official list, which does however refer to this statement of intent, which explains, right up front, as the first “primary goal” of his political agenda:

1) Attempt to do everything possible to make it so this country’s amazing scientists and technologists have resources to overcome human death and aging within 15–20 years—a goal an increasing number of leading scientists think is reachable.

(Presumably that’s why Aubrey de Grey is on board.)

Zoltan wrote a book a couple of years ago, and he seems to be having quite a lot of fun with this “campaign.” He raised $27, 250 on Indiegogo to create an Immortality Bus. (He accepts no financial contributions, on principle.) That's a "mobile 40-foot coffin" that he drove around the country "to ignite the next great civil rights debate in America and around the world." He did it, too, and even got some press.

He regularly publishes at Huffington Post (they’ll put almost anything up), and published pieces in the San Francisco Chronicle in both 2002 and 2003, in Outside in 2004, and in the Daily Caller in 2010 on the marijuana business. Slightly more substantial is his old work for National Geographic’s various outlets; he really was in deepest Asia.

He’s done a very respectable job boosting his profile among the notoriously small circle of transhumanists, but not without making enemies there. Notably, James Hughes can’t stand him. They had a “salty” debate in April, which was written up in Motherboard, with many lovely quotes, the best of which they kept for last:

Extra Sick Burn:
Hughes on Zoltan’s novel, The Transhumanist Wager: “It’s like Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged and then ran for office as a Democrat… At least in Atlas Shrugged the rich people buggered off and left everybody alone.”

But what will happen when the aliens turn over the triggering card? Now we know: The whole Presidential run was a feint. He’s really going for the Vice-Presidential slot:

Istvan said in an email Tuesday evening that he recently flew across the country to be interviewed by one of the remaining major party candidates to fill the slot of vice president on a ticket.

Right. There may be room in the White House for a food taster.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: