Thursday, 12 November 2015

Who Wants To Live Forever?

I think this chap's on to something with this business of having a 'chip' inserted into his hand because it's perfectly safe and secure from the thieving types who wouldn't think twice about stealing your Apple Watch or and iPhone.  

So I wish Zoltan and his 'immortality bus' well.

And you just never know - few people thought Jeremy Corbyn could win the race to become leader of the Labour Party. 

Transhumanist running for US president: Religion holding back science

BBC - Felicity Morse, Newsbeat

Zoltan Istvan is running for US president.

He's the leader of the Transhumanist Party, which is campaigning to develop technology that would help us to live forever.

That is also why he is driving round the US in a giant coffin - to make a point.

It is also why he has had a near field communication (NFC) chip inserted into his hand. It was painful, but worth it, according to Zoltan. 

"It was a pretty thick needle. It was a little painful, I'm going to be honest. That said, it was quick," he explains.

"They take a big needle and pump this thing right though you into your hand. Two seconds of pain and then a lot of smiles."

The NFC chip he had implanted uses the same kind of technology that lives in your iPhone or Tablet and lets you use Apple Pay. 

He says his chip is fairly basic and more of a symbolic gesture.

"You can start your car with it if you have the right software, you can open doors with it. That kind of thing," he says.

Over the next 30 years, humans have a huge amount of life-changing technology to look forward to, says Zoltan.

"We might not even have a spoken language in 20 years. It will be just so much easier to communicate through a brain implant," he adds.

Image caption The chip inserted into Zoltan's hand

The word transhumanism is not an everyday term. But Zoltan says that in the next two decades saying you're a transhumanist will be as common as saying you're an environmentalist.

As long as the right people get into power, that is.

"Public enemy number one for technology would be having another Bush in office." says Zoltan.

Currently Jeb Bush, the brother of former US President George W Bush and son of George Bush Sr - who was elected president of the US in the 1980s - is running for office in the US. 

Image caption Jeb Bush, brother of George W Bush

"If Jeb Bush did something like his brother did, stamping out certain kinds of technologies because they cross religious boundaries, then we may be stepping back 10 years," he says.

"It's really sad because the main goal of transhumanism is to get people to live indefinitely and we are at the cusp of this technology. If anyone stands in the way of that, they are arguably sending people to their deaths.

"For those of us who don't believe in an afterlife, this is the time we have to stand up and emphasise science."

Religion is holding back scientific progress in the US, says Zoltan.

"None of the political parties in America will even touch the word secular, or any kind of politics without being a real devout religious person. For centuries now this has damaged science."

Image caption Obama has put technology on his agenda

But what about Barack Obama?

He has been has been pegged as one of the most tech-savvy presidents to date and in July signed an executive order calling for the US to build the world's fastest computer by 2025.

It's not enough for Zoltan.

"Obama still makes decisions based on advisers who are saying we must consider the broader public's religious views." he says.

"I just don't think religion has anything to do with health, or science."

Istvan says he would use religious resources to fund science.

"We would stop the law that churches don't have to pay taxes and we would put that kind of stuff into education and health.

£Why not have a war on cancer with some of this money instead of fighting wars against other countries in the Middle East and whatnot?"

Despite all of this, Zoltan admits ("let's face it" he says) he is not going to win. 

Image caption There's not enough female transhumanists says Zoltan

He also says transhumanism as a movement has its own problems that need solving. As well as connecting people to the technology and the name, he mentions the current lack of females transhumanists.

"It's a very male dominated movement," he says.

"We want to get more people involved, a lot more diversity, a lot more women."

It's been a topic of conversation on the tour bus, but Istvan has no answers as to why this might be.

"There's no real easy answer, apart from maybe transhumanism gives off somewhat of a selfish buzz, after all most transhumanists want to live forever.

"That doesn't necessarily go with the female psyche which is much more altruistic and about kindness and love. Transhumanism tends to be cold science people.

"That said, I think we're trying to change to movement. Transhumanism is really about people's health, it's nothing selfish at all.

"It's very unselfish, it's about promoting 21st century medicine and making it available to everyone."