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I recently sat down with Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson at his home in New Mexico and watched an episode of Orphan Black, the hit sci-fi show. Between his CNN Town Hall meetings and endless speeches on the campaign trail, you’re probably asking: How did Gary get the time to watch a television show? It’s a good question, but the former Governor made the time, because he’s interested in the future and willing to explore how it might unfold.
Johnson is excited about using radical science and technology to make America stronger and help the human race.
Nothing else will change America more in the coming decades than radical science and technology. Consider CRISPR gene editing tech and the biohackers who are already trying to splice plant DNA in their skin to be able to photosynthesize energy into their bodies. Talk about a way to end world hunger. Or what about artificial intelligence and nuclear weapons—something Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have recently publicly worried about? Some experts believe coming AI—an intelligence as smart as an adult human being—could arrive in as little as a decade with enough funding.
Gary Johnson is interested in these things and has ideas about them.
I had the pleasure of talking about it with him while he cooked me dinner and had me as an overnight guest in home (he makes a mean shrimp and scallop pasta). My visit was predicated upon being a possible Vice Presidential choice of his. Given the remarkable personalities also on Johnson’s radar (like Governor Bill Weld who he chose), I probably was a long shot for the position. But that didn’t stop Johnson from spending 2 half-days with me discussing radical technology and the best way to use it to improve America.
Preparing America For A New Age in Science and Technology
When Johnson talks about improving America, he really means it. In fact, I believe it’s the main reason he’s running for the US presidency. He worries about America imminently having a cultural and financial meltdown that could irreparably harm this nation—and the world with it. Johnson asserts that he wants to restore commonsense social open-mindedness and fiscal responsibility to our nation before that happens.
It’s not going to be easy for Johnson.
As a well-known extreme athlete and sports competitor, he’s in for the race of his life. He’s likely to be on all 50 state ballots and technically could win the Presidency, but that’s only probable if he’s included in the national debates with Trump and Clinton. To be included he has to reach 15% consistently in the polls. He’s in the low double digits now, but improving every month.
I strongly believe Gary Johnson should be in the debates, whether he makes the arbitrary 15% threshold or not. I believe this not only because it breaks up America’s monopolistic and un-American two-party system, but because Johnson brings a unique perspective to politics with his forward-thinking about science, technology, and future.
On The Issues
I recently consulted with the US Navy on all things transhuman—including the development of AI. The four naval officers that came to my house in San Francisco were well aware of how important and disruptive this field will be. In an email, I asked Johnson what he thought of those that want to regulate AI, and he wrote, “I think it is important to not regulate the AI industry.” Johnson said the same thing about the internet industry. As a Libertarian, he wants to leave those industries to themselves. Not regulating AI development goes against some leading thinkers like Elon Musk, but it’s right in line with many AI engineers who argue there’s little reason to worry about its creation.
Johnson also believes in longevity research. He says he would “sign legislation promoting research and development” of cures for all diseases. In fact, he likes the Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recent statements that we should aim to cure every disease before this century is out. Johnson also said he would be “vetoing legislation that would restrict” science development.
Johnson also isn’t afraid to discuss another hot button topic: gene editing. Early in 2015, Chinese scientists used gene editing techniques on the first human embryo. Some scientists immediately sought a moratorium on the radical technology. However, today scientists generally seem to have mellowed out and experiments are proceeding. Many countries are moving forward with research, including the USA (where a federal and bioethics panel recently approved human trials).
I recently told a CNN Courageous produced panel I was on in New York City that CRISPR/Cas9—where DNA is manipulated in genes to get specific outcomes—is probably the most important 21st Century scientific breakthrough and could help eliminate most disease and physical ailments. Already, gene editing has cured some cancer, improved animal’s physical muscles and bodies, and removed malaria from mosquitoes. But America has been hesitant to take the lead with this research, leaving China as the nation who might end up with the most patents and expertise. When asked about this, Johnson wrote me, “Yes, I think America should take the lead.”
Like it or not, if America doesn’t lead here, another nation will. And because other nations may be interested in augmenting their children’s intelligence using gene editing tech, America must be vigilant that this doesn't lead to an entire generation that is literally biologically smarter than Americans.
Additionally, the economic ramifications of Johnson’s perspective are huge. Many new billion dollar companies likely will be created around gene editing tech. Like the other great technology of the last 30 years—the internet—we want those companies to be US companies.
On a more fun note, Johnson told me he’d “absolutely” use a driverless secret service car. He’s not afraid of having a robot drive the President around. Such a vehicle will surely be here before the end of the next President’s term.
Johnson also told me he’d have a 3D printer put into the White House. It’s been years since America got a new household appliance, and the 3D printing revolution happening right now might mean much less shopping at WalMart—and more making of things right in your home. I expect 3D printers to be in millions of homes within the next 10 years. My neighbor already has one.
The fact is this radical science and technology stuff is not only super cool, but incredibly important. America is entering an age when discussion of immigration, social security, and foreign defense may not be as important as artificial intelligence, gene editing tech, and curing all diseases. Gary Johnson is a candidate willing to address these hot-button issues.
I hope Johnson will make it into the Presidential debates (and Bill Weld into the Vice Presidential debates), so along with his fiscal and social policies, he’ll be able to share with America a brave vision on the future. Gary Johnson is a top-notch presidential candidate for American science and technology for two reasons: He’s excited about it—and he’s willing to openly talk about the issues.
Zoltan Istvan is a futurist and 2016 US Presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party. His essays have appeared in Newsweek, Slate, Salon, Vice, TechCrunch and many other publications. He lives in San Francisco with his physician wife and two daughters. He’s a former on-camera journalist with the National Geographic Channel.
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