Party’s now disowned 2020 Presidential candidate ate “human meat” burger. Jonathan Matthews reports
Transhumanists are no strangers to controversy. How could they be when Jeffrey Epstein numbered himself among their longstanding adherents and hefty financial backers? But even by transhumanist standards, the ructions that have just rocked the US Transhumanist Party (USTP) over their 2020 Presidential candidate have been remarkable.
Transhumanists, as you may know, are extreme technophiles who want to use genetic engineering and other extreme technologies, including neural interfaces with machines (i.e. implanting hardware in their brains that connects to a computer or other cyber device), in order to “enhance” themselves in pursuit of what they call “humanity 2.0”, “humanity plus” or “posthumanity”.
Transhumanists are also keen on gaining immortality and, as this isn’t immediately on offer, this tends to go hand in hand with an interest in cryonics – freezing all or parts of their bodies when dead (Epstein is said to have wanted his brain and his penis preserved) in the hope of resurrection at some suitable future juncture.
Sound nuts? Well, it seems to have real appeal for the kind of affluent geeks forever in pursuit of the latest ultra-tech gizmo, not to mention some prominent scientists, bioethicists and Silicon Valley moguls.
Getting the Party started
Their proselytising zeal is such that in 2014 Zoltan Istvan founded the US Transhumanist Party (USTP) to fight elections in order to spread their ideals more widely in hope of implementing their programmes politically.
Istvan himself stood as the USTP’s first Presidential candidate in 2016, running for office in a campaign bus decked out to resemble a coffin to draw attention to the Party’s goal of eternal life. But since then Istvan has become concerned that transhumanism is “being overrun by socialists and a politically correct culture devoid of risk and objectivity”. So he has switched to standing as a Republican.
The Party’s 2020 Presidential candidate Johannon Ben Zion, who was also the Party’s Vice Chairman, was portrayed as more of a pragmatist who wanted to reach out to a wider group of electors by talking about more imaginable goals like “life extension” rather than abolishing ageing and dying.
A “repugnant incident”
But any thoughts of the Party having opted for a safe pair of hands evaporated in the wake of accusations that the USTP had “nominated a literal cannibal!” as their candidate for the Oval Office.
The Party has responded with a statement disowning Ben Zion and claiming he “is no longer affiliated with the USTP in any way and has not been since June 8, 2020 - *prior* to this repugnant incident.”
The “repugnant incident” in question involved Ben Zion consuming a “BenZion Burger”, as part of his “lab-grown human meat” project. The meat, according to Ben Zion, was constructed by his company Quixotic Life Sciences out of a culture of his own skin cells. And he recorded himself on video rather hesitantly eating an unappetising-looking gooey brown mass out of a petri dish. He later reported that this had left him feeling a “bit unwell” for a day or two afterwards.
Ben Zion claims “lab-grown human meat” could be part of the solution to the growing ecological crisis. As such, the BenZion Burger joins a growing list of “alt-foods” being hyped as disruptive innovations that will help save the planet. These include the genetically engineered Impossible Burger, 3D printed steak, and patented “human breast milk” cultured in the lab from human mammary epithelial cells.
In a statement, the USTP said its Officers had “previously warned Ben Zion that he would be disavowed if he pursued this reckless project.”
They continue, “Cannibalism of any sort and by any means, including auto-cannibalism, is not tolerated by the USTP ... Cannibalism is morally wrong even when it does not destroy sentient life, since it results in prion diseases and other maladies whose obvious incidence led even pre-scientific peoples to renounce it.”
Transhuman, Immortalist, Extropian
The USTP has now endorsed Charlie Kam as their new Presidential candidate. He was previously their 2020 candidate for the Vice-Presidency.
According to the USTP, “Charlie Kam is CEO of a software company that creates interactive, life-like, digital, avatars of humans.” The USTP adds, “He has also composed and sang [sic] many futuristic songs”, one of which begins:
“I am the very model of a singularitarian
I’m combination Transhuman, Immortalist, Extropian
Aggressively I’m changing all my body’s biochemistry
Because my body’s heritage is obsolete genetically.”
The USTP includes a video of Charlie Kam performing the song with his profile (see below). Presumably they feel it has better optics than the one of his predecessor downing “human meat”.
Now that they’ve ditched the “cannibal”, and with Donald Trump trailing badly in the polls, could the Transhuman, Immortalist, Extropians have found their moment to seize the popular imagination? It would certainly be one hell of a breakthrough. In 2016 the Party’s “immortality candidate” Zoltan Istvan, despite touring the country in his “mobile 40-foot coffin”, managed to poll just 95 votes out of the 138 million cast by the US electorate.
Top image: Ben Zion promoting his consumption of a “BenZion Burger”