The Libertarian Futurist’s Case for Avoiding War and Military Entanglements

09/13/2017 09:56 am ET
Zoltan Istvan at White Sands missile park in New Mexico
Roen Horn
Zoltan Istvan at White Sands missile park in New Mexico

Some of the early years of my adult life were in conflict zones as a journalist—which included covering the Pakistan/Indian Kashmir conflict for the National Geographic Channel and The New York Times Syndicate. War zones are terrifying. One always is worried about bullying soldiers, speeding armed military vehicles, stray bullets, and whether there’s a roadside bomb on your path. Anyone that approaches you is suspect and could be carrying ready-to-detonate explosives.

One thing conflict zones teach you is that freedom is precious. The nearly 70-year Kashmir conflict has approximately a half million soldiers involved, so even if they’re supposedly on your side (depending on what country you’re in), you still feel under siege. My time in certain parts of Sudan, Israel, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Mali, and Yemen left me with the same feeling.

We face an unusual time with President Trump, whose bold behavior could prove dangerous to stable foreign policy. This situation has now become even more worrisome this month when Russia’s Vladimir Putin, according to RT, said publicly that whoever “leads in artificial intelligence will rule the world.” Some experts believe we will have an AI equivalent to human intelligence in less than 10 years time—which means in 15-20 years time, AI will far outdo human thinking and could be in control of all nuclear weaponry on the planet.

For this reason, nothing is more critical for nations and peoples to strive for peaceful times and to get along with one another. In any kind of modern conflict or 21st Century arms race—AI, genetic engineering, or nuclear arms—we likely will lose some of our freedoms and sense of security.

The implementation of the Patriot Act during George W. Bush’s presidency was a good example of how we lost freedoms. Notably, libertarians hated it.

Furthermore, in heated times of conflict—as troublesome Kim Jong-un and North Korea seem bent on achieving—civilization also takes on far more serious existential risk. The world must always remember there are now 25,000 nuclear weapons on the planet. War is emotional and can get out of hand way too quickly for our own good, no matter who is right or wrong.

It’s always best to lessen conflict and try to work things out. It’s always better to attempt peaceful negotiations and compromise, rather than accept military intervention. This doesn’t mean as a libertarian California 2018 gubernatorial candidate (and a possible 2020 libertarian presidential candidate) I wouldn’t advocate for military fighting under certain circumstances, but if America and the world want to continue down a path of lasting prosperity, we must passionately avoid new and old foreign conflicts.

My novel The Transhumanist Wager recounts some of my experiences in a conflict zone:

Fourteen miles from Muzaffarabad, near the Line of Control in Pakistani Kashmir, a small bombed village is awash in activity—in tragedy. It’s desperate and shocking. An old woman runs up to me, throwing her hands at my face. All ten of her fingers are pointing in unnatural directions—broken in different ways. She’s another torture victim. To my right, a man wanders the dirt roads, calling out his child’s name. In another part of the village, younger women grieve, complaining of multiple gang rapes by soldiers. I try to interview the husbands—those who are still alive refuse, turn away, and cry. War is a frothing beast.

People forget or don’t realize it only takes a few hours for a political conflict between nations to escalate to a world war where tens of millions may die. It’s happened before. We must use caution and balance to take us forward. We are at a very special point in history, when science, technology, and the field of transhumanism will soon allow many amazing possibilities for America and the human race—possibly ushering in the greatest era of prosperity humanity as a whole has ever known.

But so far, technology, science, and our own behavior have not given us the hope they will stop war. We must therefore be on our guard not to incite war—and we must not pick leaders that have a propensity to lead us into armed conflict. We must aim to remain bound by reason, compassion, and peacefulness at all times.

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