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Zoltan Istvan: This US presidential candidate promises immortality for all

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 23 August 2016, 2:15 IST

While the run up to the American elections have been accompanied by the usual fanfare and excitement, there's also a lingering sense of dread. That dread is the result of the two choices on offer - Donald Trump, the bigoted billionaire, and Hillary Clinton, a candidate distrusted by two thirds of her electorate.

While Trump's agenda mostly consists of self-glorification and a return to racism, Hillary is running on a platform of...well...whatever her current audience is into. Unlike the now-sidelined Bernie Sanders, neither Hillary nor Trump's campaigns can be called visionary.

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However, while the media would have you believe America's choice for president is binary, the truth is that there are other candidates in the fray. And one of them, Zoltan Istvan, is running on a truly visionary platform - immortality for everyone.

America's immortality-seeking presidential candidate

With a name like Zoltan Istvan and a campaign platform like immortality, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine Istvan as a comic book villain. In fact, Istvan even has an origin story that's practically ripped from the DC or Marvel universe.

Zoltan Istvan (File Photo)

Born to immigrant parents from Hungary, Istvan was once an extreme athlete who pioneered volcano boarding. Yes, volcano boarding. Google it, we'll wait. Not content with that, he became a journalist with National Geographic, which is how he found himself in Vietnam. It's here that Istvan the immortality-seeker was born.

Covering a story in Vietnam, he almost stepped on a landmine but was saved by his guide. Istvan had avoided the bombshell, but another bombshell had dropped, changing Istvan forever. Having just been confronted with his own mortality, Istvan found himself obsessed with overcoming it. Both for him as well as those he loved.

Covering a story in Vietnam, he almost stepped on a landmine but was saved by his guide

It's the same motivation that saw Anakin Skywalker embrace the Dark Side. However, in the absence of The Force and midichlorians, Istvan saw the solution in transhumanism instead.

For the uninitiated, transhumanism is the use of science and technology to push humans beyond their mental and physical limits. It ranges all the way from the simple use of pacemakers to more extreme things like gene therapy and even cryogenesis.

After exploring and writing extensively on the subject, Istvan eventually formed the Transhumanist Party in 2014 to truly take the transhumanist movement to the national stage.

The Transhumanist Party

To say the Transhumanist Party's goal is just to overcome death is actually an oversimplification. While Istvan, in an interview with Reason, has stated that overcoming death "is the number one goal of transhumanism", it is by no means all the party is out to achieve.

The party's stated goal is "to support voters with future-inspired policies that will enrich America and the world". They intend to do this by building and funding a pro-science culture in the US, harnessing the power of science and technology for the greater good.

Their platform covers everything from establishing rights for cyborgs and sentient robots to legalising recreational drugs and providing universal basic income.

Istvan isn't power hungry either, having stated in interviews that he supports the idea of an artificial-intelligence president, should a truly altruistic AI be designed. Skynet anyone?

The party has even formulated a 'Transhumanist Bill of Rights' that was actually presented to the US Congress in December, 2015. Some of the rights they've come up with are so visionary they make Elon Musk look like a Luddite. Sample these:

Article 1.Human beings, sentient artificial intelligences, cyborgs, and other advanced sapient life forms are entitled to universal rights of ending involuntary suffering, making personhood improvements, and achieving an indefinite lifespan via science and technology.

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Article 5.All nations and their governments will take all reasonable measures to embrace and fund space travel, not only for the spirit of adventure and to gain knowledge by exploring the universe, but as an ultimate safeguard to its citizens and transhumanity should planet Earth become uninhabitable or be destroyed.

To spread his message, Istvan is now travelling the US in a bus that's modified to look like a coffin. Sure, it isn't subtle. Then again, when you're talking about immortality, subtlety is near impossible.

The rise of the robots?

Does Istvan stand a chance in the November elections? Certainly not. Not only is he too fringe to stand a chance, but a recent Pew survey has also shown that 70% of Americans view transhumanism with suspicion.

Still, this is no deterrent to Istvan who admits that the point is to give the transhumanism movement publicity and traction. To that end, he views even the Pew survey as a victory. After all, as he says in an interview to PSMag, "the fact that [Pew] is even covering it is a huge plus."

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So America, if you feel like voting for Hillary or Trump is a waste of a vote, maybe waste your vote on a truly visionary candidate instead. One who really, really cares about whether you live or die.

First published: 23 August 2016, 2:15 IST
 
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