Zoltan Istvan

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Zoltan Istvan
Zoltan Istvan BIO PIC.jpg

Zoltan Istvan
Born Zoltan Istvan Gyurko[1]
Los Angeles, California, United States
Residence Mill Valley, California
Nationality American
Alma mater Columbia University
Occupation Writer
Known for Transhumanist politics
Notable work The Transhumanist Wager
Political party ‘Transhumanist Party’
Spouse(s) Lisa M. Memmel, MD

Zoltan Istvan Gyurko,[1] born in 1973 in Los Angeles, is an American writer,[2]futurist,[3] philosopher and transhumanist.[4] He writes transhumanist-themed columns: “The Transhumanist Philosopher” a blog for Psychology Today[5] and “Transhumanist Future” for Vice’s Motherboard. He has also worked as a reporter for the National Geographic Channel[6] and is a blogger of futurist, transhumanist, and atheist topics for The Huffington Post.[7]

He is the author of The Transhumanist Wager, a philosophical science fiction novel.[8][9]

In late 2014, he announced his intent to run for President of the United States in the 2016 elections to raise transhumanist politics issues.


Early career[edit]

Graduate of religion and philosophy at Columbia University, age 21 he began a solo, multi-year sailing journey around the world.[11][not in citation given] He has explored many countries as a journalist for the National Geographic Channel, writing, filming, and appearing in dozens of television stories, articles, and webcasts.[12][13] His writings have appeared in a blog of The San Francisco Chronicle,[14] Outside,[15] and The Daily Caller.[16] His work has been covered in publications such as The Huffington Post.[17]

Istvan’s coverage of the war in Kashmir was made into a documentary, Pawns of Paradise,[18] distributed by Janson Media. Australia’s The Age has acquired nonexclusive Australian rights to the show.[19]

According to Istvan, he invented,[20][21][22] pioneered, and popularized the extreme sport of volcano boarding.

Istvan was a director for the international conservation group WildAid, helping armed patrol units stop the billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia.[23]

Futurist career[edit]

After publishing The Transhumanist Wager, Istvan began actively promoting transhumanism and other futurist issues via speeches, media interviews, activism, and his writings.[24][25]

Istvan’s writings and ideas on transhumanism, philosophy, atheism, and futurist issues have been featured in Yahoo News,The Daily Telegraph,[26] Huffington Post UK,[27] The Daily Beast,[28] Business Insider,[29] and other media sites. Istvan and his ideas have been featured on Fox News Channel‘s Stossel show,[30] CNN‘s Inside Man, RT’s television show Desde La Sombra,[31] and the Joe Rogan Experience.[32] Istvan has also written for Gizmodo,[33] Singularity University’s Singularity Hub,[34] and Slate.[35]

Istvan is a member of the World Future Society, a volunteer Ambassador for The Seasteading Institute,[36] an advisory board member of the India Future Society,[37] a member of the Young Professionals, an advisory board member of A-Team for Wildlife,[38] and is on the Futurist and Space Settlement boards of the Lifeboat Foundation.[39]

He regularly gives talks on futurist and transhumanist topics, which include speeches at the World Future Society‘s annual conference,[40] Transhuman Visions in San Francisco,[41] Brighter Brain’s Future of Emotional Health and Intelligence Conference at University of California, Berkeley,[42] and TEDxTransmedia in Geneva, Switzerland.[43][44]

Transhumanist Party[edit]

In October 2014, Istvan announced that he was “in the very early stages of preparing a campaign to try to run” for U.S. President in 2016. He stated that his goals would be to support scientists in “overcoming human death and aging within 15-20 years”, to encourage Americans to embrace “radical technology and science”, and to set up safeguards against dangers including potential abuse of such technology.[45][46][47]

In October/November interviews, he explained that he aimed to unify the transhumanist community which otherwise was splintering, and to establish a single voice.[48] He said great changes in society could happen and that Transhumanism could provide ideas, safeguards and policies. He said the aim for a Transhumanist Party would be to get onto as many state ballots as possible.[49]

In March 2015, Istvan reported progress in organizing a campaign, and explained his wish to get major candidates to address issues. He hopes to be included in some debates, at least with third parties. He himself had funded nearly all of his campaign’s expenses to date, however, and he noted donations are needed.[50]

Internationally, Istvan aims to help foster other transhumanist organizations and is active in humanitarian outreach programs.[51] Transhumanist writer and former University of Texas professor, John G. Messerly, on the subject of the Transhumanist Party, wrote “I thus applaud Istvan’s potential foray into politics and I think we should support him.”[52] Some transhumanist critics, however[who?], have questioned whether the Transhumanist Party adds value to the overall goals of transhumanism.[53][54][55]

The Transhumanist Wager[edit]

Book front cover

Istvan’s novel The Transhumanist Wager introduces the philosophy TEF (Teleological Egocentric Functionalism), his Three Laws of Transhumanism, and the concept of individuals making a Transhumanist Wager.[56][57] Istvan is quoted:

“TEF is predicated on logic, a simple wager that every human faces:

If a reasoning human being loves and values life, they will want to live as long as possible—the desire to be immortal. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to know if they’re going to be immortal once they die. To do nothing doesn’t help the odds of attaining immortality—since it seems evident that everyone will die someday and possibly cease to exist. To try to do something scientifically constructive towards ensuring immortality beforehand is the most logical conclusion.”

Istvan’s Three Laws of Transhumanism are:

  1. A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.
  2. A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently as possible—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First Law.
  3. A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws.

Istvan states that in the 21st Century, everyone faces a Transhumanist Wager.[58]

These views by Zoltan have been characterized by transhumanist Peter Rothman as representing “a very individualistic strain of transhumanism” and Rothman notes that “not all transhumanists accept these laws or agree with Zoltan’s suggestions about the best approach to social management and control.”[54]

Personal life[edit]

Istvan resides in Mill Valley, California with his daughters and physician wife.[9] He identifies as an atheist.[59]

In February 2015, he helped launch BiZoHa, the world’s first ‘free-thinker’ orphanage, in Mukhoya, Kasese district, westernUganda.[60] Istvan’s promotional article on the topic in ViceMotherboard, helped a GoFundMe campaign to achieve success in raising $5,820 to provide funding for the orphanage.[60][61]

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