The Transhumanist Wager

The Transhumanist Wager, by Zoltan Istvan

book review | The Transhumanist Wager, KurzweilAI, republished by io9 as The Transhumanist Wager and the terrifying struggle for the future.

Zoltan Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager is an epic story of radical libertarian ideas, their enemies, and the violent global conflict that ensues, painted in strong saturated colors with little room for intermediate shades and character development.

After reading cover to cover, and then reading it more carefully, I have mixed love/hate feelings about this novel.

It’s a page turner. Istvan — a former journalist for the National Geographic Channel and The New York Times, whose award-winning coverage of the war in Kashmir gained worldwide attention — knows how to tell a compelling story.

There are strong parallels with Atlas Shrugged. Jethro Knights, the main character of The Transhumanist Wager, is a modern John Galt — a transhumanist and even-more -radical version of Ayn Rand’s hero.

Jethro is obsessed with and focused on attaining personal immortality via biological life extension and especially mind uploading and eternal cybernetic life.

I think The Transhumanist Wager is a very powerful artistic statement indeed, but one that promotes an interpretation of transhumanism that I find far too militant and devoid of compassion.

At the same time, while Zoltan and Jethro don’t have all the answers, they do ask important questions, and offer some valid answers. I find their libertarianism too militant and uncompromising, but at the same time, I think it’s important to affirm libertarian ideas loud and clear in today’s dull, politically correct, anti-libertarian cultural climate.

I don’t think science will advance as fast as Zoltan hopes, but I think it’s important to offer younger generations compelling artistic visions of a solar, positive future powered by transhumanist science.

Zoltan’s book has the potential to become a cult book. I hope it will be widely read and discussed.

Read more | KurzweilAI (spoiler alert)