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Death is Not Destiny: A Glimpse into The Transhumanist Wager

The-Transhumanist-Wager“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:

Zoltan_IstvanAt 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.

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  • I am reading this book right now and, having gone through 60% of it, I can honestly say that it is simply a must read for anyone concerned with the future of humanity!

  • advancedatheist

    You can read my review here:


    Zoltan has his heart in the right place, but he still has a lot to learn from those of us who started to think about these ideas, and to live with their consequences, probably before he was born.

  • I will also write a review once I finish the book…

  • CM Stewart

    This is on my list to read for the summer. Thanks!

  • Thank you CM Stewart for putting it on your reading list! Feel free to shoot me your thoughts and comments once you’re done with. Warm wishes, Zoltan

  • advancedatheist

    My junior year high school English teacher back in 1976-7 said to the class one day that every generation of teens thinks it invented sex. I recollected that while reading this essay. Zoltan has basically the right idea, but it amuses me when I encounter people in their twenties and thirties who think they just invented immortalism & transhumanism, or worse, who think they invented cryonics, like some LessWrongers I could name. I say to such people, hey, welcome to the party, but some of us got here before you were born. Just keep in mind that you look like padawans relative to your elders. Nothing wrong with that, of course. I haven’t reached the Jedi Council level of transhumanists yet, but I could plausibly claim Master status, and I would consider taking on apprentices.

    BTW, you can watch Zoltan’s volcano boarding on this video. I have to admit that I find this pretty damn cool:


  • Yeah, Zoltan is a cool guy with a number of amazing life experiences – I’d like to hear in person some of his stories from around the globe, though I suspect many of them have already made it into his book, one way or another…

  • advancedatheist

    Transhumanists still have a lot of work to do:

    Prize-winning Templeton essay: death is good for humanity


  • advancedatheist

    I didn’t mention this in my review on Amazon, but I like how the Jethro character* loads his boat with serious books before he goes on his voyage of self-discovery – except for the part about stealing some of them from the New York Public Library. Even if public money bought those library books, they didn’t belong to Jethro, whom Zoltan clearly models after Ayn Rand heroes. I thought Objectivists consider property nearly as sacrosanct as the physical and mental integrity of the individual.

    That part of the novel sounds unlike something Ayn Rand would write in another way, because in her novels the heroes generally don’t seem to own or read books. You’d think in Atlas Shrugged that John Galt, an intellectually productive geek and inventor, would have piles of mathematics, physics and engineering texts in his cabin in Galt’s Gulch, for example, along with works of philosophy. (As a 30-something adult virgin, he didn’t have much else to do at night, did he?) Instead Rand describes the cabin’s interior as basically bare walls with some simple furniture. By contrast the alpha villain in The Fountainhead, Ellsworth Toohey, lives in a home library and studies constantly; but Rand meant that to show Toohey’s status as a parasite on the minds of others, a “second-hander.”

    Any way, I wonder if Jethro’s fictional example would encourage young transhumanists to pursue more serious reading in history, literature and philosophy. They also need to get and study from some real science textbooks (you can find them cheap on Amazon) in, say, neuroscience, so that they can discuss these subjects with enough knowledge not to embarrass themselves in front of people who have Ph.D.’s in these subjects..

    * Zoltan as an immigrant to the U.S. might not know about the idiot hillbilly character of that name in a popular 1960’s sitcom.

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  • All you just said was that you are OLD. Well done Zoltan

  • Hell yes. I’m going buy this book.

  • Name

    “On the Dual Reality of Existence,” new text proposes Quantum Immortality. See http://www.dual-reality.com Must see updates pg 2.

  • Very interesting!

  • Name

    Thank you, enjoy the hypothesis.

  • Robin K Kane-Kerby

    Why so scathing in your posts advancedatheist? I look forward to reading Zoltan’s book, not because I expect it to contain scientific evidence, but because I am willing to consider his point of view. We live in a multiverse of infinite possibility. I enjoy entertaining the idea that we may all have differing viewpoints, and yet have a discussion of them without bloodshed (or defamation). There is no need for one person to be right and another to be wrong. Right and wrong are based upon perspective, and we each have our own.

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