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Zoltan Istvan Headshot

Transhumanists and Libertarians Have Much in Common

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Some may find it surprising the rapidly growing international movement of transhumanism -- a field that aims to radically improve and alter the human species using science and technology -- has a significant amount of libertarians actively supporting it. It really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Libertarians are known for scorning any government or individual that wants to tell them how to live. Borrowing two words Ayn Rand liked to use in her writings, libertarianism can broadly be summed up like this: hands off. Many transhumanists feel exactly the same way about their ideas and goals.

The bold science and technological innovation that is critical to transhumanism achieving its aims occurs because researchers make decisions that aren't bound by preset tenets or cultural mores. They imagine what is possible with the human being, and then work towards achieving that using reason, passion and diligent work. It's these extraordinary ideas of transhumanists -- uploading people's minds into computers, reversing aging in order to live indefinitely, or becoming cyborgs via artificial hearts, synthetic limbs and brain microchip implants -- that often make it seem a far-out type of movement. Indeed, transhumanist scientists and futurists are extreme in some ways.

I can think of a few other extremists of their time: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, all who are sometimes cited as libertarian-minded figures. Each of these men belonged to the American Revolution, a struggle that began in 1765 to free the Thirteen Colonies from a tyrannical British Empire, excessive taxes and even oppressive religion. In fact, America and many other freedom-loving nations were founded upon such extremism -- upon a "hands off" attitude. Later, America's founding fathers enshrined many of those same beliefs in our United States Constitution. Extremism, it seems, is the catalyst that forges progress.

Of course, much has changed in America since the 18th Century, especially in regards to its politics and the development of the stale, modern two-party political system. Furthermore, in modern times, libertarianism has branched into many forms and perspectives: Geolibertarianism, Objectivism, Libertarian socialism and Anarcho-Capitalism, to name just a few. Each version caters to their own set of standards and interpretations. However, most libertarians still subscribe to some core basic tenets: individual liberty, political freedom and voluntary association.

Many people associate libertarianism with Republicans and a conservative agenda, which is due partially to the recent popularity of the Tea Party. Yet, that association is wrong in many ways. Libertarianism is highly concerned with values that protect people and their liberties, which seem more oriented to the typical Democrat and a liberal perspective. It's for this reason that values of the LGBT community, women's rights (such as being pro-choice) and transhumanist science are often championed by libertarians.

"As I see it, the values of a libertarian have plenty in common with those of a transhumanist," said Michael Nuschke, who is a "retirement futurist" and practicing retirement planner who offers financial and life style strategies via his blog Retirement Singularity. "Libertarians don't want to be told how to lead their lives. They don't want imposed restrictions, but rather they simply desire freedom. Transhumanists want the same thing, except with an emphasis on tapping into the power of scientific and technological advances."

One of the most interesting and exciting upshots of transhumanism and libertarianism is the rising promise of seasteading. Seasteading is using a floating platform to create a community that resides in the ocean, often far from land. Once you're a few hundred miles off any nation, many laws no longer apply. In this way, a seastead possessing a community of transhumanists could escape the often restricting and overtly bureaucratic reach of government, enabling scientists to pursue extreme science without interference. In America, nearly all politicians in the U.S. Congress are religious, and in the future they're likely to be unwelcoming of coming radical science and technology, especially life extension science that aims to make people live indefinitely. Such scientific aims blatantly counter the ideologies of the Abrahamic religions and their major spiritual texts, such as the Bible or Koran.

It's for this reason that a substantial portion of my pro-science and libertarian-minded novel The Transhumanist Wager also highlights a seasteading city, called Transhumania, where transhumanists can accomplish all their scientific aims outside of government, cultural and religious intrusion.

Beyond fiction, billionaire and libertarian, Peter Thiel, also supports seasteading and has partially funded the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to it, The Seasteading Institute, where I'm a volunteer ambassador. Additionally, Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, last year mentioned how he advocated for an experimental "small piece of the world" to pursue radical science not bound by obsolete laws and excess regulation. Some say he was channeling the promise of seasteading.

Ultimately, I expect more and more libertarian-minded people to support transhumanism. Libertarianism and transhumanism have too many deep philosophical principles in common to not grow and evolve together. The all-important role of personal freedom makes the two ideologies a natural fit for one another.

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