“Death is not destiny. Death is neither inevitable nor natural,” says Jethro Knights, protagonist in my new philosophical thriller, The Transhumanist Wager.
What does Jethro mean? Death is not destiny? Death is neither inevitable nor natural?
It means, Jethro would say, that the most significant thing that has been happening to the human species is about to end.
The Transhumanist Wager tells the story of a man who will do anything to achieve immortality via science and technology. His main focus and drive in life is finding a way to live forever, even at the possible expense of what most people would call humanity.
When I set out to write The Transhumanist Wager four years ago, I did not intend it to become an edgy, controversial book. For much of my adult life, I have been a journalist covering environmental, wildlife, and human rights stories. My articles and television episodes—many for the National Geographic Channel—were welcomed in any culture and in any country. My stories were the type that a family could amicably discuss over the dinner table, or watch on television while happily cuddling together on a couch.
Perhaps it was the effect of the war zones I covered as a journalist, rising out of my subconscious, but The Transhumanist Wager soon took on much more contentious ideas of human endeavor and culture. For a human being, most conflict zones highlight a simple fact: Once presented with horror and death, one tends to quickly discover degrees of emotion and experience never imagined or thought possible before. For me and the difficult moments that I still vividly remember, those incidents gave me the powerful conviction that human life should be preserved indefinitely, at any cost.
Jethro Knights also realizes this early in his life, after almost stepping on a landmine in a war zone (which happened to me in Vietnam’s DMZ while filming a story on bomb diggers). The revelation for Jethro is so sharp, so penetrating, so intense that nothing will ever be the same for him again.
It is from this vantage point that The Transhumanist Wager was written. And it is from the landmine experience that Jethro discovers the mortality crisis not only in himself, but in every human being alive. That crisis takes on the form of a wager—a choice that every human must make in the 21st century: to die eventually; or to try to live indefinitely. And if we try to live indefinitely, then we should use every tool and resource of science and technology available to us, Jethro insists. And we should do it immediately.
This is the quintessential message of The Transhumanist Wager. A rational and scientific-minded society owes itself the strictest dedication to applying its resources and minds to overcoming that which has been the greatest downfall of our species: our mortality.
My novel presents the story of a human being who after years of struggling, years of anguish, years of tragic loss, fights on to achieve his own immortality—and in doing so, scores a victory for all of civilization.
About the Author:
At the age of 21, American-Hungarian Zoltan Istvan began a solo, multi-year sailing journey around the world. His main cargo was 500 handpicked books, mostly classics. He’s explored over 100 countries—many as a journalist for the National Geographic Channel—writing, filming, and appearing in dozens of television stories, articles, and webcasts.
His work has also been featured by The New York Times Syndicate, Outside, San Francisco Chronicle, BBC Radio, NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, Animal Planet, and the Travel Channel. In addition to his award-winning coverage of the war in Kashmir, he gained worldwide attention for pioneering and popularizing the extreme sport of volcano boarding. Zoltan later became a director for the international conservation group WildAid, leading armed patrol units to stop the billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. Back in America, he started various successful businesses, from real estate development to filmmaking to viticulture, joining them under ZI Ventures. He is a philosophy and religious studies graduate of Columbia University and resides in San Francisco with his daughter and physician wife.