Like many other people around the world, I am following the expanding Zika virus crisis. It's unsettling to watch images of people affected by the disease. Also, in the news, last week's earthquake in Taiwan tragically killed up to 100 people. And in the last few days, media is sensationally reporting a 30-meter wide asteroid soon to pass alarmingly close to the Earth.
These existential threat issues never seem to end, and they always make me ask: Does it have to be this way? Must we always worry about something? Or can science and technology eliminate all risks?
As a 2016 US Presidential candidate, it amazes me that more attention is not dedicated to overcoming existential risk by the very thing humans are good at: innovating. We can overcome all odds with new science and technology, and I personally advocate for spending much more government resources to do so.
Fusion video of transhumanist presidential campaign
Transhumanists are sometimes criticized as being overly optimistic about the future. It's true that transhumanist supporters do put nearly all of their hope into science and technology to solve the world's problems. However, last year's existential risk street action in San Diego--part of the Immortality Bus tour--showed a philosophically balanced approach to technology.
Transhumanist Party supporters made a public demonstration against existential risk in front of the San Diego Bay-anchored USS Midway aircraft carrier--now a popular tourist destination.
Carrying signs and banners bearing statements likes "Make Love, Not Viruses", "AI Must Be Safe," and "Give NASA Funding for Asteroid Detection," nearly a dozen people gave speeches and engaged the public in discussion about planetary risks.
San Diego street action video by Roen Horn
The street action was not the blind, rush-ahead syndrome that many luddites, religious media, and conspiracy theorists suggest all transhumanists possess with technology. Rather, transhumanists aim to use progress to eliminate harm and suffering, while also noting that too much technology--especially too fast--can be dangerous or harmful to the species.
Despite many countries around the world existing in relative peace and advancement, our species is under constant threat of cataclysmic existential risk--an event that might erase tens of thousands of years of human progress and literally send the species back into the dark ages.
Take Ebola for example. Ebola is a disease that can be conquered, and yet it ran havoc in America's psyche two years ago. In fact, since Ebola has been around for decades, the real question is: Why hasn't Ebola been stopped yet? Either with a cure or with a vaccine? Some experts believe Ebola could be mostly eradicated with less than a $100 million dollars, in the same way yellow fever, smallpox and other diseases have been mostly controlled. The net worth of the United States is about $125 trillion dollars. As a country, $100 million is a drop of water in the ocean for our citizen's health.
Unfortunately, the current US government--both Democrats and Republicans--don't consider such risks as necessary to tackle with the full power of our nation's resources and 21st Century science. I wonder if it'll take a Supervirus that kills tens of thousands to get the government to decide to spend its resources to eliminate major plagues.
Istvan reading the Trashumanist Bill of Rights at the US Capitol -- Photo by Roen Horn
Myself and other transhumanists are calling on politicians to realize that spending trillions of dollars on far-off wars, instead of spending a fraction of that money to potentially save our country from dire existential risks is plain irresponsible.
Recently, The Boston Globe reported that our government "is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America's nuclear weapons."
Wow. $1 trillion. You could probably wipe out nearly every single major disease on the planet with that kind of money. But more importantly, as a species, do we really need 25,000 nuclear weapons on the planet--because that's the amount that's out there? Between possible accidents, terrorism, and warmongering dictators, something bad easily could happen from them. I say let's get rid of all nukes before some tragedy strikes.
Protesting at US missle base -- Video by Roen Horn
There's something very wrong with a society that makes so much of its GDP from a military industrial complex bent on war. We should aim to create a replacement for it that focuses on science. And among other priorities, that science industrial complex should protect us from existential risk.
In my opinion, the government is not distributing the people's resources properly or in their best interest. In the future, I hope politicians in America will deal with existential threats far ahead of time, instead of leading us down a path where something truly awful might happen to Earth.
Reason TV video on transhumanism