Kai Weiss: “Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination”

(note:Zoltan Istvan, founder of The Transhumanist Party, has announced as a Libertarian Party candidate for Governor of California in 2018. This article is a response to an article on Transhumanism by Mr Istvan previously published in The American Conservative)

Last week in TAC, Zoltan Istvan wrote about “The Growing World of Libertarian Transhumanism” linking the transhumanist movement with all of its features—like cyborgs, human robots and designer babies—to the ideas of liberty. To say Mr. Istvan is mistaken in his assessment is an understatement. Transhumanism should be rejected by libertarians as an abomination of human evolution.

We begin with Mr. Istvan’s definition of transhumanism:

… transhumanism is the international movement of using science and technology to radically change the human being and experience. Its primary goal is to deliver and embrace a utopian techno-optimistic world—a world that consists of biohackers, cyborgists, roboticists, life extension advocates, cryonicists, Singularitarians, and other science-devoted people.

The ultimate task, however, is nothing less than “overcoming biological human death” and to “solve all humanity’s problems.” Throughout much of Mr. Istvan’s work on this issue, he seems to think these ideas are perfectly compatible with libertarianism —self-evident even —so he doesn’t care to elaborate for his befuddled readers.

While most advocates of liberty could be considered, as Matt Ridley coined it, “rational optimists”—meaning that generally we are optimistic, but not dogmatic, about progress—it is easy to get into a state in which everything that is produced by the market is good per se and every new technology is hailed as the next step on the path of progress. In this sense, these libertarians become what Rod Dreher has called “Technological Men”. For them, “choice matters more than what is chosen. [The Technological Man] is not concerned with what he should desire; rather, he is preoccupied with how he can acquire or accomplish what he desires.”

Transhumanists including Mr. Istvan are a case in point. In his TAC article he not only endorses such things as the defeat of death, but even “robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, and telepathy via mind-reading headsets.” Need more of his grand ideas? How about “brain implants ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, gene editing tech”? At no point he wonders if we should even strive for these technologies.

When he does acknowledge potential problems he has quick (and crazy) solutions at hand: For example, what would happen if people never die, while new ones are coming into the world in abundance? His solution to the fear of overpopulation: eugenics. It is here where we see how “libertarian” Mr. Istvan truly is. When his political philosophy—the supposedly libertarian one—comes into conflict with his idea of transhumanism, he suddenly drops the former and argues in favor of state-controlled breeding (or, as he says, controlled breeding by “non-profit organizations” such as the WHO, which is, by the way, state financed). “I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a driver’s licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.”

Full Article by Kai Weiss from The American Conservative @ http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/transhumanism-is-not-libertarian-its-an-abomination/

2 thoughts on “Kai Weiss: “Transhumanism Is Not Libertarian, It’s an Abomination”

  1. dL

    Transhumanists including Mr. Istvan are a case in point. In his TAC article he not only endorses such things as the defeat of death, but even “robotic hearts, virtual reality sex, and telepathy via mind-reading headsets.” Need more of his grand ideas? How about “brain implants ectogenesis, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits, designer babies, gene editing tech”? At no point he wonders if we should even strive for these technologies.

    Well, sounds better than remaining slaves to biology and environment simply b/c of some superstitious religious dictate.

    And Note: Some Zoltan Istvan’s previous positions(e.g., parental licensing) are in conflict w/ his recent libertarianism. There is nothing inherently contradictory b/t transhumanism itself and libertarianism. Indeed to deny transhumanism by force of law/prior restraint is inherently un-libertarian.

  2. Starchild

    Agree with dL on all points.

    In libertarian political terms, choice does matter more than what is chosen, so long as what’s chosen does not violate the rights of others. Letting people choose, instead of trying to control what they choose, is the whole point of libertarianism.

    Transhumanism is not about forcing people to get artificial intelligence implants, extend their lifespans, modify their bodies (beyond the current technological capacities for body modification), etc., it is simply about allowing them to do so if they wish (within their voluntary means). This is entirely compatible with libertarianism.

    While Zoltan Istvan’s views may or may not be libertarian in any given instance, he’s just one guy who identifies as a transhumanist. Transhumanism should not be judged based on his personal beliefs.

    Barring some unforeseen disaster that causes massive disruption and suffering (nuclear war, an asteroid hitting the earth, a supervirus, etc.), technological progress will continue to create more and more changes that create new tools for living. The vital question is whether these changes will lead to greater individual empowerment, or greater government control. By framing technological advances in terms of personal choice, transhumanism comes down on the side of putting people first, and avoiding a dystopian totalitarian nightmare.

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