September 7, 2015
Taxes, climate change, the wage gap. These are just a few of the issues that both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are expected to tackle during their campaigns.
But presidential candidate Zoltan Istvan has another policy issue at the top of his list: death.
Istvan is the founder of the Transhumanist Party, a political party focused on using science and technology to solve most of the world’s problems. With his campaign, Istvan seeks to make longevity research just as big of an issue as social security or immigration.
For Istvan, aging and death are the biggest plague of our time. And technology is the cure.
“A big part of my own campaign is that aging is actually a disease and not something natural,” Istvan told Tech Insider. “In the 21st century to not be using science and technology for everyone’s direct health and longevity is something that should not be allowed anymore.”
Unfortunately, the government doesn’t see it this way and is investing very little in longevity research, Istvan said.
So the 42-year-old is setting out across the country next month to campaign on the platform of using technology to live forever. But his bus tour will be a bit more flashy than the rest.
Istvan — along with some embedded journalists, scientists, and other transhumanists — will be touring the nation in a converted RV disguised as a coffin — a reminder that the Grim Reaper is coming unless we take action to stop it.
“We have a real chance of stopping death”
Istvan and his supporters will kick off their tour in the so-called “Immortality Bus” on the west coast, stopping in cities across the nation sounding the alarm that there are not enough resources currently being invested in fighting death.
Istvan, like other transhumanists, said he believes that merging technology with human biology can radically extend life. For example, using bionic organs as transplants when our natural organs fail. But this kind of life extension technology will only become possible when people demand that more money be spent on longevity research.
“I think people have just been conditioned to believe that this is just a natural part of existence, that that’s the program,” Istvan said. “And so our job is to uncondition that. To tell them actually it was the program until we reached the 21st century and now all of a sudden we realize that with genetics and bionics and robotics that we have a real chance of stopping death and treating it as something much more similar to a disease than some natural phenomenon.”
For the fiscal year of 2015, Congress allocated about $609.3 billion or 16% of all federal spending to the military. Total federal funds invested in the sciences was just $29.81 billion, or .78% of the same lot. And just a tiny fraction of that, if any, is being spent directly on things that qualify as longevity research, he said.
“We are not spending any of the money directly that could make us live considerably longer. For example, robotic hearts or 3D printed organs,” he said. “There are things we can do out there if we just had the money if the scientists just had the resources, that they could tackle.”
Istvan said that with an investment of $1 trillion in longevity research, the aging process could be stopped in just a decade. And in 20 years, researchers could even be capable of reversing the process, he said.
The “Transhumanist Bill of Rights”
Eventually, Istvan’s bus party will make its way to the nation’s capital to deliver a bill that requires the government support a longer lifespan via science and technology.
“We are going to end in DC, walk up the steps of the US capitol building and deliver what we consider a Transhumanist Bill of Rights,” he said. “There needs to be some type of mandate that says it’s illegal to stop or not put forth resources into this type of science, because by not putting money and resources into this type of science you are effectively shortening people’s’ lives.”
For example, when George W. Bush vetoed bills related to spending federal funds on stem cell research during his presidency, transhumanists would consider that a crime, Istvan said.
While Istvan acknowledges that he doesn’t have any real chance of winning, he said he does hope that his audacious campaign gets a conversation started among other candidates about the future of technology in our country.
“When you are a third-party candidate, half of what you do is entertainment to be honest because you are actually trying to spread a message knowing you have very little chance of winning,” he said. “I know it’s probably going to fall on quite deaf ears, but we are going to deliver it nonetheless.”