Continuity of Consciousness

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NEWS FLASH: The Transhumanist Wager is NOT Zoltan Istvan’s Political Manifesto



For the past couple of years, I have been writing a “guide book” about Zoltan Istvan’s philosophical novel, The Transhumanist Wager. I have read Zoltan’s book in its entirety several times and have read certain parts of it many times. I have spent quite a bit of time categorizing its content by topic and connecting-the-dots between related information that may not be apparent to the “normal” one-time-though reader. By now, it’s possible that I have a level of understanding of this book that is second only to Zoltan himself. Given this “unfair advantage,” it’s quite easy for me to spot posts and even some reviews that contain blatantly incorrect/incomplete “facts” about Zoltan’s book. I have slogged through all this data, like “some obsessed verse monger” and now you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my toil. You’re welcome!

A Cariciture of a Charismatic Character

Recently, there have been some comments online to the effect that Zoltan Istvan and Jethro Knights, the character Zoltan created in his novel, The Transhumanist Wager, can be viewed somewhat interchangeably and the philosophy and actions of Knights depicted in the novel represent Zoltan’s “political manifesto.”

People have referred to Zoltan as “Zoltan/Jethro”; Jethro as Zoltan’s “author Avatar;” and Zoltan has been mischaracterized (to put it politely) as “…someone who thinks it’s okay to slaughter a massive amount of the human race in order for the ‘transhumanist wager’ to be won.” Others assume that because Zoltan created the philosophy that Jethro follows in the novel, Zoltan must necessarily approve of, or endorse, all of Jethro’s philosophy-driven actions as a blueprint for activism in our current “real world” or at least they have a fear that this might be Zoltan’s mindset.

Additionally, it does seem that some people who want to demonize Zoltan by positing a Zoltan-Jethro equivalency also seem to fancy themselves to have a keen mind-reading talent that enables them to “read between the lines” of the novel and discern the true content of Zoltan’s character and his sinister intentions.

To be fair, a certain amount of conflation of Zoltan with Jethro is inspired by the novel itself. Zoltan has admitted that “…the first three chapters of the book are highly autobiographical.” So, the purpose of this essay is to disentangle these actual and fictional personae, one from the other.

The good news is: We don’t need to resort to any form of roundabout revelatory divination to determine the differences between Zoltan, the human being, and Jethro, the uber-“colorful,” extremist, and more importantly, fictitious, character in a novel. Zoltan can tell us directly:

“…I have stated in public that I cannot go as far as Jethro. He may be right in his dark logic, he may be philosophically correct, but it is too blatantly inhuman for me personally…I tended to write the story from the perspective of a simple question: How far would one man go to achieve his immortality?…Art should challenge you…It’s not necessarily my perspective or philosophy. But it’s challenging. How far would you go to live indefinitely? How far would you take transhumanism? My character takes it all the way.”

One reviewer of the novel posits “hypocrisy” on the part of Jethro, in the sense that Jethro shares a core value and aggressive-dispostion with his arch-enemy, the Reverend Belinas, a religious extremist whose organization carries-out bombings of transhumanist facilities (114) and murders of transhumanists, (53) including the murder of Jethro’s pregnant wife and attempted murder of Jethro (163) — ordered personally by the Reverend. (160)

Belinas also has great influence in the US government, to such an extent that he believes he’ll be able, if necessary, to bypass the US President and plot a military strike against the transhumanists directly with the US military. (207)

Jethro is quite an aggressive extremist himself and the reviewer points out that there are several instances in which these two extremists use language and take actions that are similarly aggressive. However, this similarity is not “ironic” nor “hypocritical,” rather the parallels between these two, otherwise, polar opposites are actually the result of “intelligent design” on the part of Zoltan — this is not a “bug” but a “feature.”

A Tale of Two Extremists

This novel is, at its core, a tale of two diametrically opposed extremists and how far they are willing to go to prevail over each other and to reach their goals. Evidence of their mutual-extremism can be found in the fact that they both use the exact same phrase to describe the price they are willing to pay to achieve their ends: For Jethro, it is survival “at any cost,” (5) while for his nemesis, the Reverend Belinas, he must achieve victory over Jethro and all transhumanists, “At. Any. Cost.” (113)

And here we can see an important distinction between Zoltan and Jethro…From Zoltan’s 2nd Singularity 1 on 1 interview: “I’m interested in one goal, and that’s: not dying. And I’ll do whatever it takes, basically within reason, but there’s a lot of stretching there…whatever I can do to make sure that happens.”

In stark contrast, Jethro puts absolutely no limits on how far he will go to obtain immortality. A “within reason” qualification is not even a consideration for him.

How Do They Differ? Let Us Count the Ways

There are two broad categories of attributes that differ greatly between Zoltan and the character in his novel, Jethro Knights. 1) The extremes of Jethro’s philosophy and personality and how those drive him, relative to Zoltan’s philosophy and personality. 2) The extreme (to put it mildly) differences between the circumstances and events in the world of The Transhumanist Wager verses our current “real world.”

Context, Context, Context…

With this minimal foundation in place, we can now approach the most salient feature of this, or any, work of fiction; something that is necessary for a complete understanding of the events and actions of the main characters: the particular details of the world created by Zoltan in The Transhumanist Wager.

Some may think that many events in this novel are preposterous, unrealistic, would NEVER happen. They can refuse to accept the plausibility of the book’s premise all day long, but what they don’t get to do, according to logic, when evaluating the actions of the characters, is to ignore the unique context put forth in the novel — the facts and the causal sequence of events that comprise the world that Zoltan has created. Even if you do this unconsciously, it is still a breach of logic that will lead you to erroneous conclusions.

Two Worlds — Vive La Différence

The most important difference between TTW-world and our-world is that the story of TTW-world begins in an atmosphere of ever-escalating terrorist acts committed by anti-transhumanists against transhumanists. Later in the story, this progresses from “mere” terrorism to an all-out World War initiated by the ten most powerful nations on earth in an eventual effort to wipeout all 10,000 transhumanists on Transhumania via a nuclear attack. (265)

Absolutely ALL actions taken by ALL sides need to be filtered through the lens of this TW-reality: greatly polarized ideologies followed “religiously” by two extremists; terrorism and a war against transhumanists; warnings/threats made by Jethro to the anti-transhumanists; aggression versus self-defense, plus EXTREME personal tragedy, in Jethro’s case, caused by the anti-transhumanists.

The kinds of harrowing events that transpire in pre-war, war, and post-war martial-law scenarios absolutely can NOT be compared to our peace-time reality in current-day America. TTW-world involves powerful plot-driving catalysts, which propel the entire storyline forward and make each character’s actions explicable. If these are omitted from consideration, our analysis of Jethro can’t help but be incomplete and inaccurate.

One glaring example of this kind of context-dropping is a review that spends quite a bit of time discussing Jethro’s odd personality and aggressive philosophical ideas, suggesting that Jethro may be a classic narcissist/psychopath; mentions Jethro’s bombings of government and religious buildings/monuments…AND…does not utter one peep about the terrorist bombings of transhumanist facilities; many murders of individual transhumanists; the attempted murder of 10,000 transhumanists; a war of laws, and then an ACTUAL war, waged against transhumanists, including a planned nuclear strike; the serious injury of Jethro and the murder of his wife and unborn baby in a bombing attack.

Really? Shouldn’t these facts be mentioned when considering Jethro’s extreme statements and reactions? Doesn’t this context give a fuller picture of what motivates Jethro in addition to his philosophy and goals? Specifically, doesn’t the fact that Jethro enters the world of public transhumanist discourse and advocacy during a time of organized, violent, and deadly anti-transhumanist terrorism, deserve mention when evaluating Jethro’s aggressive approach to activism? How can one come away with anything but a biased view of the character and the novel, when these MONUMENTAL plot-driving facts are omitted?

Zoltan, from an interview: “I admit that Jethro Knights, while inspiring and brilliant, can go too far. But in the context of his wife being murdered, his life being repeatedly threatened, and his passion to overcome death, we find a man who no longer values people over his own path towards immortality.”

By a certain point in the novel, Jethro had had quite enough of their crap and was in no mood to give them the “benefit of the doubt” any longer, which he did only briefly, early in the story, when he still had the hopeful-optimism of youth that led him to think that most people would rationally see the obvious value of transhumanism as he did. (23)

Yes, Jethro Knights Is Quite An “odd duck.”

We may get much further in our understanding of Jethro’s psychological/philosophical intersections, and non-intersections, with transhumanism and transhumanists in our world, if we view him, not as a “bad” human, but rather, as a non-human entity altogether—a being that is utterly unlike us in its most basic nature.

Jethro’s chosen self-image is that of a being that is already in the process of transcending his status as a human being. He sees himself as a different kind of being, “thinking and acting with the same cold clarity a super-intelligent machine would use—something [he is] quickly evolving into anyway…” (53)

From Zoltan’s 2nd Singularity 1 on 1 interview: “When I originally wrote The Transhumanist Wager, I was thinking of almost an artificial-intelligence-being…that cold and that calculating.”

Jethro, to the extent that he is able to alter or subvert his human-nature, cultivates this utterly unlike-us-ness at nearly every turn. He views himself as a being driven by a non-human moral code devoid of “unreachable mammalian niceties.” (84) He attempts to cultivate a non-human, machine-like mind, so much so that he gets to the point when he no longer feels human and doesn’t relate to humans as though he is one of them. (188) He also speculates about the nature of a future machine moral system. (232)

I wrote in the margin of page 81 of The Transhumanist Wager, “May be best to think of Jethro as an alien consciousness/psychology.”

We may as well choose to think of him this way, since that’s how he sees himself as he continually strives to become an evermore perfect exemplar of a non-human/alien being: “…embrace the quest to discover how far we can go as humans, as cyborgs, as conscious intelligent machines, as rays of light, as pure energy, as anything the future brings.” (85)

Given this perspective, it is almost as unnecessary to point out the many ways in which we are not like Jethro as it is to point out the number of ways in which humans are unlike jellyfish.

As Zoltan explained to me in an email: “[R]emember, we are not discussing a perfect human being. We are discussing someone whose final aim is all power over everything. Don’t see Jethro only as a human, he is an evolving, amassing point of organized energy in a universe spanning billions of light years. You must try to think how God (should something like that exist) would think.

“You must understand that The Transhumanist Wager is a bridge. AI is coming. Merge with the future powers or be destroyed. It is evolution. And a machine’s moral system is like nothing we know.

“Can I kill my wife a thousands times? [This absurd scenario is put to Jethro in the novel.] Can I kill every person on the planet? Do I want to? Am I supportive of humanicide? The obvious answers are: No. But ask that same question to an AI. And its answer will be a very resounding: Yes. To survive, we must be stronger than AI. These are some of the reasons why I wrote The Transhumanist Wager the way I did.

“The Transhumanist Wager is a message from the future: If you don’t lose the weakness of your species, your species will not survive. You must embrace a new you—a fiercer, bolder you. Otherwise you will be no match for your own inventions.”

Zoltan views the overall scenario played-out in the book to be a cautionary tale of what could happen if we went down one possible path, given extreme circumstances and were led by such extremist super-heroes/villains. But, he sees hope in the younger generations who seem to be less bound by ancient religious ideas and are generally more open to technology since it is just a natural thing for them. His view is that the older generations won’t be around much longer to raise a fuss and it’ll be much smoother sailing with the next generations.

To those who conflate Zoltan with Jethro and think that TTW is a prescription and call for militant action, here is Zoltan from various interviews: “I also hope the scenario in my book is precautionary rather than predictive. Nothing would make me happier than an efficient, peaceful, and lasting transition to a truly pro-science culture in the world. My intent with writing the novel was not to blindly follow someone like Jethro Knights, but to create a story that is both a warning of the future—and also a chance to consider new ideas. The novel and Jethro’s character is, hopefully, also a way to entertain people while challenging them.”

On the issue of the plausibility of the specific events in TTW, even Zoltan himself has said in the first of two Singularity 1 on 1 interviews: “We paint these pictures as novelists in such scenarios where it probably…a set of circumstances like that will never occur.”

Zoltan and Jethro in Lockstep?

People can get understandably upset and hate Jethro and the book in general, especially if they perceive Zoltan as advocating or agreeing with everything Jethro says and does. But Zoltan, decidedly, does not…

From Zoltan’s 2nd Singularity 1 on 1 interview: “When you actually get down to the philosophy of Jethro Knights, in many ways he’s a wonderful human being that would do wonderful things for the world. But there are things about him that are totally outrageous. There are things that people would call downright evil. And there are other things that, when you ask, ‘What is for the greater good?,’ that he is perhaps the best at it.”

A Meeting of Minds…Flesh and Fictional

Here is an example of two perspectives that are very similar between Zoltan and Jethro: “Jethro Knights—who had remained the undisputed leader of the planet for seventeen years—announced it was time to have democratic elections on Transhumania…I’m not going to run…

“Everyone gets it now. A new generation was born with it. People are transhumanists by nature. The old guard just didn’t realize it before. We’ll do fine. Perhaps better.

“Jethro, this is absurd. Your rise to global dominion is historically unprecedented. What about all the power you’ve accumulated? What about the omnipotender? You’re not going to cast that into the hands of fate?

“Not whatsoever. It’s all our closest, most loyal friends who run the world. And I’m sure if I’m needed, they’ll call on me to lead again; however, the truth is I’m simply more useful now as a visionary thinker and philosopher, not as a ribbon-cutting, speech-making, macro-managing ruler.” (290-291)

And similarly, from Zoltan’s 2nd Singularity 1 on 1 interview, regarding his Presidential campaign: “At some point I would probably handover the political party to the community. But, the point is, by the time I hand it over, it’s going to be a kind of world-recognized name…Some people say: ‘Oh, it’s authoritarian that you are running the Transhumanist Party the way you are.’ But it’s not really…give it five years. Just be patient. Grow the name. And then let everything sort of unfold…I’m going to hand it over and hopefully we can grow it into a real third-party…

“Right now all you hear is, ‘Zoltan.’ That’s what everyone is upset about, but once this is handed over…and over a fifteen year period, it’s just going to be, ‘Oh there’s that guy who founded it.’ It’s not going to belong to Zoltan. And that’s…what people don’t get. They’re focussing right now on the here and now, instead of seeing the longer picture.”

From these two examples, we can see that the desire to create a functioning framework that allows and enables transhumanism to flourish is the focus, rather than the accumulation of power for its own sake. This also reinforces the frequently ignored word mentioned in the Three Laws of Transhumanism: “safeguard”— power is only necessary to prevent others from impeding the transhumanists’ goal of defeating death, and to enable the pursuit of other transhumanist values.

Zoltan makes this very clear, on the Future Grind podcast, when he talks about the fundamental philosophy that drives Jethro’s choices and actions: “…a very individualistic philosophy that is very much based on one trying to accumulate as much power as possible in order to protect their own existence.”

Once a stable foundation is laid, whereby safety from interference by others is firmly established, power becomes less valuable, less necessary.

Zoltan and Jethro: Of One Mind, Philosophically?

Zoltan doesn’t follow Jethro’s philosophy, TEF (Teleological Egocentric Functionalism), to anywhere near the “fundamentalist” degree that Jethro does, as Zoltan explains on the Future Grind podcast: “TEF would never work as a philosophy for a nation…TEF would ultimately say that the individual is searching for his own kind of well-being ahead of anyone else’s, and that’s why I distance myself from the book and that philosophy. Because, when you’re trying to run a country, it’s much more about people. It’s much more about society. It’s much more about taking care of the community that you’re a part of.

“And honestly, I’ve said this before, I’m not necessarily even sure yet whether TEF is something I embrace individually or TEF is just something that I created as a way to challenge people to hopefully further their own philosophical aims, because it’s very hard to practice TEF and have a family and have children like I do. Because, ultimately, as the book brings up all these different scenarios: How far would you go to protect your life? Would you protect it over your wife’s life? Over your children’s life? These are incredibly challenging decisions and challenging ideas…The same thing comes kind of with your country: Do you serve your country first or yourself?

“And so, TEF doesn’t really work when you talk about politics, but it does very much work as a philosophical vehicle for getting us to find out how far we want to take science and technology in our lives, and especially if we want to use it to conquer death.”

Further Distinctions Between Zoltan and His Book

From an email, Zoltan: “I lean left politically. So while my book is libertarian in nature, I’m much closer to a ‘libertarian socialist’ in real life (free education, free medicine, universal basic income, etc.).

“The Transhumanist Wager is now an essential read for the transhumanist and futurist movements. It’s now being read in various college courses across the country. There’s even movie interest too from film studios. The Verge, one of the leading technology sites, considers it an important moment in transhumanist history when it was published. I think everyone in the transhumanist community that hates the book needs to…not see the book as a guide for the movement, but as a quintessential read for one major aspect of the movement: its activist side.”

Zoltan and Jethro: A Tale of Two Kinds of Activists

Zoltan’s last statement about TTW’s relevance to activism gave me pause and prompted me to respond to him:

Me: “Can you clarify ‘activist side’ in your original email. There’s a wide-range of things happening in the book, from the promotion of H+ ideas, like radical-life-extension, to all-out war. And I can already see people responding to your support of the ’activism’ in TTW as proof that you are advocating starting a war against H+ opponents.”

Zoltan: “I mean activism in nonviolent ways.”

Me: “Yes, nonviolent, sure, but here’s what I’m confused about: My core approach to TTW is to point-out that the conditions are so extremely different in TTW-world vs. our world, that comparisons about how we should act and react vs. how Jethro does are usually invalid…or at least the unique TTW-world situations need to be taken into consideration when evaluating Jethro’s statements and actions.

“Early-on in TTW, Jethro’s presentation of activism is very harsh…and the threats/warnings get harsher as the story progresses: Jethro’s solution is to launch the Transhuman Revolution and an ‘assertive direct-action organization called ‘Transhuman Citizen.’”: a ‘new stealth form of transhumanism’ that is to be ‘an unyielding, ultra-aggressive declaration to fight anything that stands in the way of our transhuman way of life…Our goal is to lead a global uprising—to transform our backwards planet into a forward-looking transhuman world, full of unlimited scientific promise. Our aim is to make that new world uncompromising in its moral thoughts, actions, and transhuman creations. And we will stop at nothing to do so.’(84)

“Even this comparatively mild statement (relative to later ones) is called ‘ultra-aggressive’ and says he will ‘stop at nothing.’ Now imagine if this were your first/early declaration to our real-world. It would be natural for a listener to respond: ‘Hey Zoltan, just tell us about your goals and ideas. There’s no need to be so preemptively threatening.’

“But Jethro was just getting warmed-up: ‘…we will lobby not only with resources, intellect, and forceful attitude, but also with might. With power. With militancy. With ferocious terror, if we have to. You will know the wrath and morality of a people who will stop at nothing to achieve immortality and the goals of transhumanism.’ (85)

“This entire tone would be premature and over-the-top in our-current-world, however it is completely understandable given the conditions in TTW-world (even early in the story): “There have been more terrorist attacks and many murders of transhumanists. (36, 53) Bombings, kidnappings, and riots are spreading from the US to Europe. (77) Reverend Belinas ‘considers the transhuman movement and their advocacy of human enhancement technology the greatest threat of our time’ (51) and responds by ‘inciting violence against transhumanists’; (50) instructing his most militant followers to terrorize research facilities; (77) and adding Jethro’s name to his list of transhumanists to be murdered, one third of whom have already been killed on his orders.’ (53)

“And again, both the anti-H+ violence and Jethro’s threats escalate significantly, later in the book, so, given that our current-world experiences zero(?) violence directed at H+ers directly, it seems that the style of activism that Jethro employs would be perceived as out-of-context, unjustified, and unnecessarily beligerant, in our current-world. So I don’t see how this kind of TTW-activism would be applicable to our current-world. It seems clear to me that the kind of activism that Jethro employs is not applicable to the current conditions in our-world, so the kind of activism in TTW wouldn’t be an appropriate model for transhumanist activism today. Is there some angle I’m missing?”

Zoltan: “I think one just has to always consider context. It all really comes back to the eternal philosophy: One’s morality changes the less time they have left to live. I might be more on board with Jethro’s extremeness if I was about to die, but right now I’m focusing on 2024 as a real candidate for the Dems. So I’m going to do what is necessary to accomplish that. Activism isn’t always what we think of activism. Activism might be being highly diplomatic—just like perfect integrity might be breaking one’s integrity.”

Me: “Thanks! Yes, that all makes sense. But Jethro is almost never the contrary…he constantly threatens his opponents with death, if they oppose him too aggressively. How is he/the-book a good model of activism for our world that has no violent anti-H+ aggression? The context in the book is basically: The world at war with transhumanism. So how can the kind of activism in the book be applicable to a world without a ‘war on transhumanism?’ Most of the world hasn’t ever even heard of transhumanism. What of Jethro’s ultra-aggressive activism would we apply here and now? How can his style of activism be quintessential for a, currently, almost totally peaceful relationship between H+ people and non-H+ people?”

[…and then, before Zoltan has a chance to respond, the obvious point starts to dawn on me…]

Me: “OK…I think I see your angle…maybe…If I add the clarification that, by activism, you don’t mean every specific detail of every tactic Jethro uses, in his war-time context…instead you mean the broad principles that can guide activism in our context today, which will manifest in much more diplomatic and restrained ways than Jethro found necessary to resort to in his war-time scenario…”

Zoltan: “I mean the broad principles. Also, you don’t think the world is at war with transhumanism, but the biggest demographic (the youth) might feel differently. They are full of hormones and often desiring a revolution of sorts. The book gives them that guidance, even if there’s no war to fight right now. I agree there’s no war, but there’s plenty of battles where activism is needed. The book can inspire on that angle.”

Me: “Yeah. I can dig that. Sometimes I think that the majority of the world isn’t against H+ only because most people haven’t heard of it yet. But just let ’em hear about it and a lot of them will fear/hate it.”

Zoltan: “Everyone is going to accept it eventually. It’s just getting from point a to b, and being effective about it. You and I are in a precarious position. The life extension stuff will be happening right when we are scheduled to die. If we were 20 years younger, I wouldn’t worry as much. Onward!”

Some of the above email conversation could benefit from some further clarification…

When Zoltan says, “One’s morality changes the less time they have left to live. I might be more on board with Jethro’s extremeness if I was about to die…” He is referring to this principle from the novel: According to Jethro, transhumanist morality is “defined and decided by the amount of time we have left to live.” (85)

Once the conquest of death is deemed to be possible and is chosen as Jethro’s highest aim, it follows that the urgency with which he will purse it is in direct proportion to how far he perceives that his dwindling lifespan may fall short of the time needed for science to enable him to achieve an indefinite lifespan.

In a perfect world, full of resources applied to this goal and devoid of any people/governments impeding progress, Jethro’s urgency would manifest as dedication to moving research along as fast as possible. If Jethro were 20 years old, in good health and the projected date was 5-10 years away, he could afford to be more laid-back about it. But, given the situation in the novel of dwindling research funds, increasing impediments to research, an uncertain timeline for this scientific breakthrough, and his advancing age, Jethro will modify his view of what kinds of tactics are ethical under these conditions.

In TTW-scenario that involves outright roadblocks created by people/governments, another principle kicks-in: “Every time someone gets in the way of life extension and human enhancement goals, every time a new anti-transhumanist law is passed, every time you decide to hinder scientific progress, you are knowingly shortening the lives and productive working hours of transhumanists and your own citizens. We have a specific legal term for that type of behavior in this country. It’s called manslaughter.” (28)

In this kind of situation, impediments to research reach the level of “aggression,” and nearly “murder,” according to Jethro’s value-system.

Given that we, in the “real world,” are not currently experiencing anything near the level of push-back that is depicted in TTW, Zoltan’s level of activism on this issue has amounted to overcoming apathy, familiarizing people with the concepts and principles involved in radical life-extension research, and introducing the idea that impediments to this kind of research are not something that should be tolerated, for any reason. This can be seen in the Transhumanist Bill of Rights that Zoltan delivered to the US Capitol in December, 2015.

“Article 2. Under penalty of law, no cultural, ethnic, or religious perspectives influencing government policy can impede life extension science, the health of the public, or the possible maximum amount of life hours citizens possess.”

This essentially eliminates any “theocratic” influence such as was seen in the stem-cell research-funding debacle during the George W Bush administration.

This is the kind of nonviolent “activism”—drawing attention to transhumanist goals and values and staking moral claims to the freedom to move necessary technologies forward—that Zoltan is referring to when speaking of present-day transhumanists taking inspiration from his book—with the obvious proviso that everything be context/principle-driven, i.e., In our current context, the use of persuasion, education, changing “the system” and boldly countering opposition with better ideas and new laws, are what is appropriate, and not the kinds of specific tactics that Jethro used in the escalating wartime-scenario depicted in TTW.

Zoltan also said above: “Activism isn’t always what we think of activism. Activism might be being highly diplomatic—just like perfect integrity might be breaking one’s integrity.” The classic example of “breaking one’s integrity” to exert a higher-form of integrity is: Although one might hold that truthfulness is one of the most important pillars of integrity, when, in Europe during WWII, some Nazis drop by your house asking if you’re hiding any Jews there, a morally-wise person would not stick to the virtue of absolute-truthfulness as though it were some inviolate dogma, but would realize that a higher-form of integrity compels them to “lie through their teeth” convincingly, and  without remorse, by NOT telling the Nazi-bastards that Anne Frank and her family are in-fact hiding in a secret room in their house.


It should be clear by this point that the events in the novel and the characters, Jethro Knights and Reverend Belinas, were created intentionally to portray an extremism of circumstance, thought, and action, that go WELL beyond the conditions of our current world and don’t represent the personal philosophy nor the disposition of Zoltan Istvan, in all details.

No doubt, some will continue to distrust whatever Zoltan says, but at least here we have a record of some of his stated positions, illuminated by more detail, nuance, and clarification. Those who don’t want to base their opinion of Zoltan and his ideas solely on statements made by his critics can find further information in this essay about his ideas and values, straight from “the horse’s mouth.”


Jazz Musicians: Free Yourselves from Decades of Practice-Room Drudgery…

Humans: Behold, the 5th generation, advanced music-bot, outfitted with the hyper-dimensional Jazz-9000 positronic neural-net with an improv-accelerator upgrade and AI-swing-flux-capacitor.
This particular model has been disguised as an unassuming 12 year old boy from Indonesia.
So rejoice, erstwhile jazz musicians throughout the land. This labor saving device will liberate you from the heartbreaking treadmill of spending the majority of your lifespan honing your art form only to discover that nearly all of your fellow mammals don’t give a fuck.
You can now join the rest of the technologically dis-employed and enjoy the finest of the new generation of jazz-droids performing music that no un-enhanced primate could ever hope to achieve.
You’re WELCOME!!!

Adam Alonzi’ Podcast: Poly-Beings and other Heretical Musings on Identity and Consciousness with Chris Armstrong

HUMANS: I was on the inimitable Adam Alonzi‘s Podcast. We talked about all kinds of exotic things of interest to Futurist/Transhumanist types (and “normal” humans as well). And please check out his previous episodes. He has chatted with a veritable “cavalcade of stars” in the H+ and science worlds.

Bitcoin — Subverting the Would-be Gatekeepers, Overlords, and Central Scrutinizers

Video: Andreas Antonopoulos – Bitcoin – PART 1/2 | London Real

I was having an online discussion with someone about groups of “elites” and their power over other people/groups. My contention was that there are many technological innovations that have happened and are continuing to happen that are tending to cut out the “gatekeepers” — those whose permission we once needed to acquire in order to participate in certain (many) activities/industries. His contention was that there have always be elites, historically, who impose their will on others and he saw no reason that that would change in the future. I said:

“Well, history is the past…and it is a non-Transhuman, non-Singularity past. The future may not only be more different than we imagine. It may be more different than we CAN imagine. Your argument presupposes that there will always be elites and they won’t be ‘obsoleted’ by future technological developments that disintermediate them.

He went on do say he distrusts ANY group and thought that groups, per se, wield power over individuals.

I think Bitcoin may be a good example of a large group of people — a “decentralized network” — whose system has cut out middle-men and does not control individuals who use it. In the past 10 or more years, we have seen several examples where the gatekeepers have been undermined and replaced by systems that are not controlled by any “central scrutinizer.” That is not to say that Bitcoin has perfect security and cannot be undermined my an “evil-doer.” It is still evolving, but so far it seems to be a good example of huge groups of people working together and autonomously without a controlling “overlord.”

The Tired Old, “Death Gives Life Meaning” meme, as Expressed by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Actually, I Don’t Want To Live Forever — Here’s Why

The “deathist meme” is strong in human culture right now…and probably always has been. That’s all we’ve known. It’s the one thing that has been guaranteed to all of us, regardless of our “station” in life. But it’s the constricted vision of Neil deGrasse Tyson, who can be so visionary on other topics,​ that is disappointing to me. He’s basically saying: Even in the face of the most radical change in the nature of humanness that  we’ve ever experienced and the scientific/breakthroughs and understanding that will accompany the achievement of a an indefinite lifespan (a choice about how long we want to live), he still wants/expects our psychology/motivations to remain the same, and any alteration from they way these things operate in an 80-year-lifespan paradigm will be a loss.

To me, this is such a passive way of looking at it. As though we cannot adapt or invent a new way of finding motivations and “reasons to get out of bed” in a scenario of a radically extended lifespan. He’s so un-creatively mentally stuck in “the way it’s always been” mode.

How about looking at the upside possibilities that can arise from an indefinite lifespan as well? Our timescale and level of urgency will change, but we will be able to have many “careers” (areas of learning and focus/activity). Such a finite and short lifespan as we have now could be seen as a mockery and a waste of all we achieve and learn — it can “live” on if we leave behind our thoughts in books, etc., but all that accumulated knowledge, skill, wisdom, and the ability to express it and act upon it, is just extinguished when we die. There is an African proverb: “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” And I have personally known some great human-libraries, built-up over some wonderful, adventurous lifetimes, burned to the ground via death.

As far as the obvious “over population” issue that is the first go-to argument of anyone who hasn’t spent 15 minutes exploring the many ideas on this, outside of their own knee-jerk reaction…

“Immortality” has not been with us from the beginning, so we can dispense with the “we would have 100 billion people on this planet” issue that Tyson mentions. Yes, that sounds very dramatic, but it is a complete “red herring,” non-issue. We are now developing technological solutions to many human-problems that will lead to greater resource-abundance/access and cleaner ways of producing them. Many analysts have noted that populations level off and even decline when people (particularly women) acquire more education and individual rights and autonomy (strong pillars of the Transhumanist paradigm), but beyond that, the “x billions-too-many people inhabiting this one planet” fear, is also a result of a myopic vision. It ignores the various breakthroughs that will come along with a Transhumanist vision and research. For one thing, we won’t remain locked on this one planet forever AND we will alter ourselves so that we can actually survive in environments exceedingly harsher than what our current bio-meat-bags have evolved to withstand on this one idiosyncratic speck of dust in the universe.

Additionally, we will be moving toward a time, probably in this century, when our consciousness can be moved into completely non-bio platforms, which will be able to function on multiple energy sources (to our design-specs rather than evolution’s): energy from stars, and even some energy sources that haven’t yet been conceived of…no longer needing to consume the biome of this planet to sustain us in a non-bio form. We will be able to put our consciousness into virtual worlds as well, etc. Once we are able to capture our complete consciousness-pattern in the form of an information/data specification, we are no longer just another bio-being trapped on this planet and forced to consume its resources and pollute it to death, just to remain alive for a short time.

Yes, these are all far-fetched/far-future possibilities/eventualities, but these and other far-less exotic breakthroughs need to be considered when thinking about how humans and post/neo-humans will function in a completely transformed Transhumanist scenario.

When thinking about any given breakthrough, we all must be careful to avoid the very common mental-error that Ray Kurzweil has warned against: The mistake of considering one particular mega-transformative breakthrough and then mentally placing it in a scenario in which all other factors remain the same — to assume that no other huge breakthroughs happen in nearly the same time-frame as the one under consideration. In this case, Tyson is assuming that we will achieve a monumental scientific breakthrough in life extension and the population will explode, but we will still have the same limitations we have today in all other areas: the same resource-scarcity; the same shitty-forms of energy with the same power-structures as we have today continuing to control them; nothing new that would affect human reproductive behavior and we would just reproduce rampantly; no other concomitant scientific breakthroughs that will help to mitigate issues that arise in people’s minds about such a huge change in human lifespan.

When we think of the many scientific pieces that will need to come together to make “radical life extension” a reality, it is inconceivable that these things will happen “out of context”: in a world wherein other major breakthroughs are NOT occurring as well.

Yes, timing is everything and transitions to new paradigms are always rough, but particularly so for those who insist that “the way that it has always been done” and “the things that motivated us in the past” must remain operative, even in the face of monumental technological/scientific/social/behavioral change…in MANY domains.

Finally, if “deathists” want to shun life-extension breakthroughs and extol the virtues of dying “to get out of the way” for the next generation” or the “practicalities” of retaining such a paltry finite lifespan, that is their prerogative, but if they follow-through with this world-view, there will eventually be a time when people of that mindset will become self-selected for extinction and they will leave the adventures of experiencing multiple phases of learning, multi-relationships, creativity in multiple fields, and exploring the universe, to we non-deathist, transhumans, and eventually, post-biological entities, of our own design.

“Personally, I’ve been hearing all my life about the Serious Philosophical Issues posed by life extension, and my attitude has always been that I’m willing to grapple with those issues for as many centuries as it takes.” — Patrick Hayden

Abundant Future: Making Anything Out Of Anything…


A “conceptual” step in the direction of the ultimate goal: making anything out of anything…toward the day when discarded or no longer desired matter can serve as the raw molecular material for molecular-manufacturing/atomically-precise-manufacturing…when we can breakdown and reconstruct anything from anything, including…<wait for it>…food, water, medicine…and the end of resource-scarcity.

Only then we can at least have a CHANCE of moving away from our fearful tribal-ape mentality of hoarding and war-ing over a STATIC and geographically-bound distribution of resources. Resources will become dynamically malleable and abundant and no longer objects of status, power, control, and deprivation.

And to preempt the ubiquitous “nattering nabobs of negativism” who will say that this technology will be hoarded by the “elite” power-mongers. Remember that these advanced “replicators” — along with eliminating scarcity of everything else — will eliminate any scarcity of replicators, because of the recursive nature of this technology: a replicator can replicate another replicator…AN ABUNDANCE OF REPLICATORS along with an abundance of everything ELSE.

MANY future breakthroughs are required to get us to this kind of ideal level of the MASTERY-OF-MATTER, but we are starting to see the embryonic stages of this progression now…something we can recount to future post-human generations with great nostalgia and muse over what “adorable” little chimp-creatures we once were.

Podcast Interview on Transhumanism and Powerlifting

I was interviewed on the Union Of Muscle podcast by the super-groovy, Paul Victor Vazquez JD, about Powerlifting and Transhumanism…of all things. 😉

Terence McKenna: “Shed the monkey body…”

It’s such a tragedy that Terence McKenna didn’t make it very far into the 21st century. He was expressing much of the transhumanist ethos in the 1990s and it would have been amazing to see his take on things these days…

“I believe that the totemic image for the future is the octopus. This is because the squids and octopi have perfected a form of communication that is both psychedelic and telepathic; a model for the human communications of the future. In the not-too-distant future men and women may shed the monkey body to become virtual octopi swimming in a silicon sea.” -Terence McKenna

If I Could Read Only One Book…

This book…recommended to me by Leonice Shinneman around 1980-ish…set me on the path of AI study/research and eventually to transhumanism. Douglas Hofstadter said of his book: “In a way, this book is a statement of my religion.” Similarly, in a way, this book is like my bible. If I could read only one book the rest of my life and be confident that I could continue to learn from it and be inspired by it, it would be this one, no question.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid Paperback – February 5, 1999 (originally published 1980) by Douglas R. Hofstadter



The Idea of a President is Antiquated and Based on Alpha-male Chimpanzee Behavior

Joe Rogan, on the tradition of electing a man or woman as President:

“I think it’s an antiquated system that’s based on alpha-male chimpanzee behavior…it’s ridiculous. We have the Internet now…representative government is not necessary anymore…Now you can have instantaneous communication with people all over the world…You’d have to get some of the best minds in the world to sit down and restructure it…from the ground up and not do it based on this system that we already have in place…You would have to start from scratch.”

buckminster fuller meme