Zoltan Istvan: ‘Half of Americans Will Probably Have a Robot in Their House’ Within 5 Years

In part one of our interview with Zoltan Istvan, he discussed his presidential bid for the 2016 campaign, how technological advancements could pose a risk to jobs, and even the idea of an artificial intelligence running for president one day. You can read it here.

We’ve followed two seemingly disparate lines of thought, so let’s take them to their logical conclusion: Let’s say that we do that. Let’s say that we accomplish sort of “science-industrial complex,” that we can win this battle against mortality itself. At the same time, we’re developing these technologies with increasing automation, and we’re making human workers literally redundant. What happens when those two concepts meet? It seems to me that we would have a more and more long-lived population, with fewer and fewer occupations available for them. How can those conclusions co-exist without becoming hopelessly entangled?

Oh yeah, no. Indeed it will be tangled. But, you know, this is where I think that in my own campaign and the Transhumanist party, we support, very deeply, a Universal Basic Income. Now when you hear the words “Universal Basic Income,” it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s some kind of socialist perspective. There’s also ways to create a universal basic income through Libertarian means and our Libertarian ideas and stuff like that.

One of our ideas is that with a Universal Basic Income, with the automation coming that’s going to replace so many workers, is going to be a huge amount of prosperity for the companies who are replacing the human workers with machines. That prosperity can go towards creating Universal Basic Income, so that we don’t create a society even moreso of the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

And, I think more prosperity is going to mean more money in the system. Let’s spend more taking care of those Americans who have lost their jobs. In fact, it’s not just those Americans who have lost their jobs. I’m not just interested in only those Americans who have lost their jobs. I’m actually interested in every single American.

The reason I’ve always liked the Universal Basic Income is because it allows for every single person to get a certain amount of money — enough to feed and clothe themselves, and house themselves — and on top of that, they can create whatever kind of world they want. They can build empires. But nobody is left out of that system.

And a Universal Basic Income can do a lot of other things too. It would wipe — it would essentially replace — welfare. I think there’s a lot of Right-leaning people who would like to replace welfare. And the Universal Basic Income would do that. It would also replace Social Security, which is a huge headache for very many Americans moving forward, as they know that we just don’t have the money to pay that off.

So as these companies start replacing workers and making huge amounts of money because they’re not paying labor costs, we can start creating this kind of UBI to create a world where everyone has at least enough to survive, and be happy, and from that point on, they can do whatever they can, if they can find jobs in the first place. Now, I know that’s a tough entanglement, as you mentioned —

It’s a complex problem, certainly.

You know, the real issue is, what is the alternative to the Universal Basic Income? And that is the bigger question. I’m not supporting Universal Basic Income because I think it’s some giant Utopian land, and we can all live happily ever after. I support the Universal Basic Income because it’s the only alternative I can see, where all those truck drivers that lose their jobs don’t pick up molotov cocktails and throw them in the houses on my street.

That’s why I support Universal Basic Income. Because it will prevent a revolution. It will keep society moving forward. It will keep economies growing. And it will keep, most importantly for me, science and technology growing.

You have to understand that from a Transhumanist perspective, our main thing is that we would like to overcome death, we would like to kind of enter into this new age, and we can do these things through science and technology. But the last thing that we need is a war where buildings and companies get destroyed and everyone has to stop working for ten years until we get through that.

So, we want a transition into this new machine age that’s going to be simple, that’s going to offer everyone something, and keep most people happy. And, you know, that’s why I have backed the Universal Basic Income — as a way to try to avoid some of the entanglement issues of the machine age meeting this idea where everyone is losing their job.

I’m hoping that people will enjoy playing guitar on the beach in the Bahamas, rather than working a 9-5 grind in some factory. I’m hoping that they’ll say, “Hey, Zoltan was right! This was a better life to have.” And of course, it’s not just playing a guitar in the Bahamas. They could aim to be a professional tennis player. They could aim to start a whole other company to do other jobs on top of what they can find.

You know, everyone’s going to have a lot more free time. And in this modern world, free time is such a luxury. I can tell you, it’s one thing I don’t have anymore. And I think a UBI would add something very important to our happiness levels if we could implement it someday. And I think we’ll be forced to, because I don’t see machines stopping taking our jobs.

So would you say that the Transhumanist Movement, at its core, wants humanity to be able to survive its own advancement?

Indeed. Indeed. And I think, you know, that’s why, when we talk about the three main policies of the Transhumanist party and my campaign, the first is we would really like to overcome biological death using science and technology. And of course, not everyone wants that, but we would like to have the right to do that.

And the second is we want to spread a transhuman culture where people actually embrace science. A lot of people in America don’t actually embrace science; they may be so religious that they don’t understand a reason why they would want to use science to modify human beings or to overcome death. So we’re interested in spreading a science culture.

But number three is existential risk. And existential risk can be anything from an asteroid hitting the planet, to nuclear warfare, or our planet going to Hell because all the machines took over, and now you have this Dystopic society where the 1% rule everybody — and I mean really rule, like through cranial implants or enslavement, or whatever crazy sci-fi things you can come up with.

We need to make sure that doesn’t happen. And that is a danger. Transhumanism can lead us through that period with some very hard-earned social philosophies and create a social equality amongst everyone if we can transition properly. But, you know, we have to talk about it. We have to have candidates running for the premise.

And we have to do it beforehand. We can’t just let machines take over and say ,”Oh wow, nobody has any money yet,” and now people are throwing molotov cocktails through windows. We have to, you know, we have to talk about it ahead of time.

This is some pretty heady stuff. It sounds like something you would hear in an 80’s sci-fi movie “in the year 20xx.” It seems like a more immediate issue than people generally realize. Something as simple as “smart phones” have revolutionized everything from human relationships to international terrorism. What do you believe to be the next thing that will alter the average American’s life?

You know, there’s so many out there, so many I’d love to talk about. 3D printing technology, the idea that all of us, within 10 years, will have a box somewhere in our house that can print anything we want, anytime we break anything — a kid’s toy, a DVD on demand — I mean, these kinds of things. I mean, you know, that’s awesome.

But you know, in drone technology, for example — that’s another one — everything is delivered, you no longer go shopping, you have a million different things going. I have an article coming out on drone armies — one man’s drone army, people in their garage printing out 100 drones at once. You know, how do you deal with that? Is that a conflict with the 2nd Amendment? There’s many different types of ideas.

I would say though, another one — I’m going to get to what I think is my main one, but I just want to point out a couple of major ones coming. The other one that I think is really fascinating is I had a 4ft robot on my bus that does about 1,000 different tricks and now it’s in the home, and it can do basic things like teach your children mathematics.

I’m certain that within the next few years, many, many people will start getting robots, probably within $1,000-$2,000, that will be doing basic tings like turn on the heater in the morning or make you coffee, wander around your house, answer the door — they’ll be great guard dogs, or guard people. I say guard dogs, but you know what I mean.

Guard-somethingsgot it. [laughs]

They’re always going to look for alerts. They’re going to smell methane gas, they’re going to smell propane gas from a pilot that went out, they’re going to know about it ahead of time and warn you. They’re going to be our personal security. And not only that, they’re going to very quickly start teaching your children after school doing homework.

I think the robot revolution is something that every single person, in their house in America — at least half of Americans will probably have a robot in their house within 5 or so years that does many of those functions I just talked about. Because it’s such an amazing thing.

But you know, the number one technology coming through the pipeline and the one that I think is going to completely change everything, has a lot to do with the brainwave technology and the advances they’ve been making with telepathy.

You know, telepathy sounds like such a science-fiction film, but about two years ago, Harvard scientists put on brainwave headsets and they were able to talk to each other across continents. Somebody said “Hello,” and the other person heard the person saying, “hello” in his mind, you know, without actually saying anything. And now they’re doing telepathy tests where you can answer twenty questions.

And we already have headsets where you can think about taking a photo with Google glass and post it to Twitter automatically by thinking about it. Well, this technology is in its infancy. However, within five years, I think there’s going to be an enormous amount of progress in it, and eventually it’s going to get to the point where we either wear headsets or, as some people suggest, might even have cranial implants.

Or, it probably won’t be cranial implants. There’s a good chance it might just be a small tattoo, they shave your head in this certain area, they put on this kind of like tattoo sticker, and it operates and will wirelessly let in signals that will tell your brain “go left, go right” and all these other things.

In fact, I just read in the Wall Street Journal, there’s some companies already working on a Google translator for second languages that you can put right into your ear, it ties into your ear nerve, to your hearing nerve, so that when you learn how to use it, you learn how to translate languages.

I mean, this stuff, people are working on it. And we’re talking, probably a trillion-dollar industry, sort of like smart-phones where once we get the brainwave technology figured out, once we have inputs and outputs, we’re going to be using these kinds of headsets or these kinds of implants all day long.

Because nobody, like Steve Jobs said, nobody wants accessories. Nobody wants a device. If you could just have a device in your head, then it will really be that much quicker. Now, we might be ten, twenty years out with this stuff. But it’s the next major revolution.

And of course, when AI comes around — I have bio-hacker friends that, literally, within twelve months, are going to be undergoing brain surgery to have a chip put onto their brain, and the reason that chip is designed to commune with some of the very first artificial intelligences.

They can’t do the surgeries in America. The biggest problem is actually trying to get the surgery done. They actually have to go to Europe or go down to Central America. And can you imagine? People are already wanting to put chips in their head so that they can commune, very basically, with artificial intelligence brainwave technology. That’s how advanced this stuff is getting.

So I’m a big believer that, just how we carry smartphones in our pockets, within ten or fifteen, maybe even twenty years, we’re all going to be thinking these things together. I wouldn’t be surprised if you and I, say, have an interview in 20 years and we’re thinking these thoughts to each other. It’s a wild world, but it’s so much more convenient.

I have a chip implant in my hand and for instance, I can start my car with it. It’s so much more instuitive than having a car key that I always lose, or that my two year old takes and sticks down the gutter, or something like that. So I think the implant technology, especially those that use brainwaves — the EEG stuff — is just going to take off and make it so that whole new industries begin.

And none of this online browsing stuff with a tablet in front of you. You’re going to think things, we’re going to have robotic eyes as well that are coming through the pipeline. There’s about six major companies right now working on the robotic eye, and one of the reasons they’re doing it is not just so people can see better, but because they can stream gaming through that eyeball directly to the optic nerve.

And– as you know — the gaming industry is now bigger than the Hollywood industry. So, all these things are totally interconnected. So, I’m looking forward to those kinds of technologies, specifically any kind of implant technology that will change the way we work and we think, and also the way we communicate with each other.

I know we’re running low on time, but is there anything you’d like to say specifically to the Breitbart readership?

Sure. To many conservative people, I’d like to first off say that, hey, I tend to come from a point of Libertarian viewpoints, though I’m definitely in line with quite a few Right-leaning and conservative views, including being fiscally conservative, including less government when possible.

And yes, it’s a Left-leaning Libertarianism that I subscribe to, but at the same time, there is a lot of — we need to understand that when the United States Constitution was written about 230 years ago, they wrote it with quill pens and they were talking about ideas that they believed in, that we all cherish — freedom, happiness, and these kinds of things. And most humans are still pursuing those exact things.

The difference, though, is that with science and technology changing so quickly, a lot of the ideas that we have originally about what America is and was, is going to have to be confronted. And I’m not saying it’s going to have to change, but in order to enjoy better lives, we’re probably going to want to become more flexible given how fast that technology is coming.

Now in no way am I saying that people, for example, have to give up religion. I don’t think having a brain implant that does telepathy to your spouse or to your kids or you know, at work, is going to conflict in any way with one’s religion. And I think that there’s this perceived notion out there that “Oh wow, there’s the Mark of the Beast.” I actually don’t think that. I actually think that, if God exists, all of this was put here, nature was put here for us to make use of it, to manipulate it, to make it better our lives, and I hope that whether people are religious or not, whether people are conservative or not, they will welcome this science and technology to understand kind of the basis of what human beings are is a species that is moving forward.

I mean, the reason America was founded was because we were not happy on the other side of the pond, and they knew it. We just weren’t happy and we wanted a better life. Well, the same thing is happening with industry, with science, and with technology right now. We’re constantly looking to make Americans better, to improve them, and we have to embrace those things. Because if we don’t, and let’s say China embraces it, or India embraces it, and they go further with these things than we do, well, we could very quickly become kind of a second-rate global citizen.

That’s not the way we want America to be. We need to lead with science and technology, even if it challenges our values, because that’s the way we’re going to keep up with keeping America so great, and making America this place where everyone says “Hey, let’s go there. It’s the land of the free, it’s the land of the promised, the land of industry, the land of ‘you can become anything you want.” I totally believe the American Dream is still alive, it’s just become more science and technology oriented.

I think the younger generations are taking it in stride. I was talking to my son about some of these cutting-edge advancements, and his reaction at 11-years old — instead of amazement — was, and I quote, “well, of course.”

Totally. And you know, with kids it’s amazing. My 1 1/2 year old was using YouTube comfortably at literally thirteen or fourteen months and she — for her, the smartphone, the things it does, she never even guessed whether it was right or wrong. She just said wow, technology makes my life fun and easy.

And I think that part of that discrepancy, of what’s happening with this older generation, is that life is changing so quickly, but we grew up with life changing so quickly, so we’re a lot more… you know, I guess we’re in the middle… but our kids, I mean, things are changing every year for them.

So I think the newer generation will lead us forward and be much more open-minded to some of these kind of, I guess what they would call “disruptions” in social existence and hopefully the older generation will come out and say, “You know what, we trust you. You grew up with this. Lead us down a path of happiness and prosperity.”


I came away impressed by Istvan’s passion for humanity’s future, whether it aligns with his predictions or not. I find myself returning to his insistence on embracing the change that so many of us fear, on confronting concepts that can seem outlandish upon first glance. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into one of the most peculiar stories in modern politics, as well as an introduction to that story’s fascinating author.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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