Two sections of BCOR 310, God and the Good Life, heard from guest speaker Zoltan Istvan, the 2016 presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party, the Friday before spring break.
Transhumanism is the idea that human experience and capacity can be greatly enhanced by the use of technology and making those technologies widely available. It is a prominent topic taught in the university’s BCOR classes.
Istvan founded the Transhumanist Party in October 2014 and is the author of a philosophical science fiction novel, The Transhumanist Wager.
The Transhumanist Party has been talked about this year in the sections taught by Dr. Trevor Thompson, instructor of Bible, missions and ministry and PhD candidate.
“I simply friend requested him on Facebook some months ago and developed a friendship and engaged him about some of the stuff he had written and some of his ideas,” Thompson said.
According to its website, the Transhumanist Party is “an American political organization dedicated to putting science, health and technology at the forefront of United States politics” while aiming “to uphold the energy and political might of millions of transhumanist advocates out there who desire to use science and technology to significantly improve their lives.”
A few weeks ago, Thompson asked if Istvan would be willing to address his two sections of BCOR on the topic.
“The evolution of BCOR has at least incorporated, at least in my sections, more and more of transhumanism, and so I started reading Zoltan’s stuff early on and started reading more and more and more and this semester, I assigned some work from him,” Thompson said.
The presentation from Istvan began with the exploration of new technologies that transhumanists strive for, such as robotic hearts, telepathy, self-driving cars, etc.
Istvan addressed his campaign for president in 2016 and the infancy of the transhumanist movement as a political party.
“We don’t have a real chance of winning this election or anything like that because we are a very small party,” Istvan said. “But we have a very interesting platform; our main goal of the Transhumanist Party is to promote three different things.”
Those three things involve putting resources into living indefinitely by changing genetic structure, spreading the techno-optimist message of technology as something that makes lives better and longer and protecting against existential risks such as asteroids and artificial intelligence gaining too much power.
“I published an article on the artificial intelligence and that kind of global arms race that might be developing around people developing this technology,” Istvan said. “After all, whoever gets this technology first might actually end up with more national and military power than all other nations combined.”
He also explored other major topics in the discussion of transhumanism, such as whether artificial intelligence will use religion and whether science and technology can allow humans to live indefinitely.
Istvan’s visit to campus sparked interest in more than just current BCOR students.
“A number of students in the classroom are not even in the class,” Thompson said. “But they had heard from someone or heard from a friend or a couple of former students had heard from someone and were just like, ‘OK, I want to come check this out.’ I think it was the chance to actually hear someone who represents transhumanism and is a leading voice in the transhumanist movement.”