In February of 2015, I saw an article announcing the presidential run of Zoltan Istvan under the newly formed United States Transhumanist Party. My interest was piqued and I reached out to him to ask how I could help. He suggested I make a film about his run which became a five-year journey culminating in today’s release of Immortality or Bust.
As a person who has been an avid follower of Singularity.FM and exponential technologies, I was very curious as to how the broader world would receive Zoltan and his unique ideas and approach. One of the biggest changes I have seen since I started the film is the widespread awareness of the term Transhumanism. It was a term I would always have to explain to anyone who asked about the movie I was making. Now, I think largely because of Zoltan’s efforts, I find people are familiar with the term and/or the ideas behind it. Or, because three cycles of Moore’s law has passed, they can feel the growth of technology in their personal lives more now than they did then.
What struck me right away about Zoltan Istvan was the fact he had absolutely no fear about biting off more than he could chew and did not care a bit about what people thought about him. His spirit was more than ready to be the standard-bearer for Transhumanism and the obstacles, slings, and arrows of doubt and opposition seemed to bounce right off him. Through sheer strength of will, he executed the Immortality Bus tour and bent the proclivities of the mainstream media to include his seemingly wacky ideas about the impact of technology on our present and future. His answer to changing labor landscape due to automation was universal basic income. It was an idea that not many were talking about and seemed completely out of the left-field at the time, but its adoption by the Yang Gang shows how quick technologies exponential growth can change our lives and opinions.
Ultimately Immortality or Bust became less about Zoltan himself and more him being a journeyman, a Sherpa, a guide through several disparate, but connected communities of believers in the almost godlike power of technology. While I had some awareness of biohacking, Alcor, People’s Unlimited, Terasem, The Venus Project, and The Church of Perpetual Live, to visit them all in a short period of time, and to put them all together on film helps to see the transhumanist movement as larger than the sum of its parts rather than some small fringe thought experiment that will be lost in the sands of time.
Zoltan’s journey has become almost historical and I am glad I was lucky enough to be there with a camera. From humble beginnings in Zoltan’s living room, The U.S. Transhumanist Party now a well organized and functioning political party. The Transhumanist Bill of Rights he read at the US Capital has been modified and adopted by the Transhumanist community at large and, I believe, will be remembered throughout time, as the moment when humans started to understand augmented and artificial life will need laws and protection as well as humans.
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