Transhumanism and Crypto: Interview with Zoltan Istvan, Transhumanist
To many people, cryptocurrencies seem like they’re a technology plucked from the future. But if you’re not a futurist, it can be difficult to imagine some of the ways that blockchain could influence our lives and society in general in the coming decades. So we thought: why not ask a futurist what they thought was coming? For this article, we got in touch with famed transhumanist, futurist, author, and Libertarian Party candidate for Governor of California in 2018, Zoltan Istvan.
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Who Is Zoltan Istvan
According to his bio, he is “widely recognized for spearheading the modern-day transhumanist movement, which advocates for using radical science to improve and evolve the human being.” He is also the author of an award-winning best-seller, The Transhumanist Wager.
Istvan ran for president in 2016 for the Transhumanist Party with the intent of promoting the fight against death itself, and will be running for governor of California this year under the endorsement of the Libertarian Party.
Without further ado, then, here’s our interview with Istvan regarding the transhumanist and futurist perspectives on cryptocurrency and where the tech may be going.
Our Interview with Istvan
Robert DeVoe, Bitsonline: A number of futurists like Gerd Leonhard have suggested that the money of today will be replaced by cryptocurrencies in the next few decades. What’s your opinion on cryptocurrency’s ability (or lack thereof) to replace money as we know it today?
Zoltan: There’s no way cryptocurrencies will replace the money of today unless the main governments of the world get behind it. And they’ll need incentive to do so. Decentralization and anonymity are not keystones of current government—in fact, quite the opposite.
While cryptocurrencies are better and more functional than normal money, that’s not the real point of why a government would embrace it. It will embrace whatever is in its favor, and specifically whatever is in the best interest of politicians that want to be re-elected. So cryptocurrencies will have to prove they are advantageous beyond just being functional as a currency—they have to be functional as a vehicle for politician’s path to power, like it or not.
Robert: Recently, Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin donated $2.4 million to the SENS Foundation, a research group dedicated to life extension with a goal of making death by old age obsolete. Do you think cryptocurrencies specifically could be used to fund other transhumanist developments such as cybernetics or other long term goals?
Zoltan: I think cryptocurrencies can be incredibly useful in supporting transhumanist and life extension issues. I’m a big fan of SENS Foundation, and I’m excited to hear about the major donation.
Robert: Your political organization was one of the first to accept donations in the form of cryptocurrency. How much of an impact is that having on your campaign for governor of California?
Zoltan: Originally, when I founded the Transhumanist Party and was its U.S. Presidential nominee in 2016, the party took bitcoin. We were one of the first parties to do it. However, I didn’t take donations for my presidential campaign nor for my 2018 governor run in California at the Libertarian Party. Had I taken donations, I would surely have taken cryptocurrencies. I’m not a big fan of using any money in politics, which is why I think politics is so corrupt.
“I’m guessing in the future when we have brain implants and are directly connected to the web, we’ll keep pass codes and access to our cryptocurrencies directly in our mind.” — Zoltan Istvan
Robert: I’d like to ask you something a bit more hypothetical. Let’s say that in the future, most people have embedded computers directly connected to their brains. How do you imagine this would combine with cryptocurrencies as we know them today?
Going further on that theme, let’s suppose that in this hypothetical future, everyone stores their cryptocurrency inside of their brain-computer interface. What would this mean for thieves and those that want to steal someone’s money? Would this mean that all thefts would inevitably require murder?
Zoltan: I’m guessing in the future when we have brain implants and are directly connected to the web, we’ll keep pass codes and access to our cryptocurrencies directly in our mind. To me, the biggest need in the future will be cyber security coders, who will create ways to protect people that are basically interfacing directly with the web with their mind.
Ultimately, I think we’ll have a police force that can carefully and quickly stop cyber crime, including that in our minds. That will be necessary in order for humanity to upload its thoughts to the machine world and feel safe—otherwise, we’ll never do it.
Robert: One important aspect of blockchain technology is immutability. That being, once something is recorded in a blockchain, it is there forever. What are some of the implications of this in terms of data that can never be erased?
Zoltan: They say data can be erased now, but no one is really sure that’s happening at all. I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up one day and everything everyone has done is mostly all there. So blockchain doesn’t change stuff that much, but since we know it’s immutable, it’s a bit more real in our minds that: this is forever.
“Privacy is a relatively new concept in history, and while it might have served the wealthy for a few thousand years, it’s not a long term phenomenon.” — Zoltan Istvan
Robert: As a member of the Libertarian party, what should the U.S. government and the IRS do in order to encourage cryptocurrency innovation and growth and not stifle it?
Zoltan: Government should see it as another asset class, and encourage it’s use. But more realistically, what will the U.S. government do—or what can they do? They should back the U.S. dollar to its own cryptocurrency. And of course, at some point they’ll do this, rather than take bitcoin or some other crypto currency. The best of cryptocurrencies can also be incorporated into a new better version of the dollar. And other governments with their own money can do this too.
Robert: In an interview with Fringe.fm, you said that transparency could be one of humanity’s saviors. Do you believe that transparency also applies to finances, such as where we spend our money, and who or what we donate money to?
Zoltan: I think life and evolution will probably take transparency all the way—where everything is known to everyone all the time. Some call this a mind hive. But understand, we won’t be human anymore. We’ll be far more machine, driven by logic and functionality.
Privacy is a relatively new concept in history, and while it might have served the wealthy for a few thousand years, it’s not a long term phenomenon. Machine intelligence doesn’t need to be so disconnected. It will discard with privacy. You’re seeing that already with how much tech is making people’s lives so much less private. Transparency will create a society of trust, openness, liberty, and most importantly, safety. Here’s the definitive story on it.
Our thanks go out to Mr. Istvan for taking the time out of his busy campaign schedule to chat with us.
What’s your take? What do humans — and the cryptoeconomy — look like in 100 years? Let us know what you think below.
Images via Zoltan Istvan, Kill Screen