Traders on Wall Street who earn millions of dollars are species that is going to go the way of the dinosaurs. They will be replaced entirely by intelligent machines, states Zoltan Istvan, the founder of the Transhumanist Party and its 2016 Presidential candidate.

Transhumanism is a futuristic ideology and movement, pushing for the transformation of the human condition via new technologies, including genetic modification, to enhance human intellectual and physical capacities.

Istvan believes the adoption of machine learning within finance is further evidence of a number of exponentials converging at once. "The transhuman age is upon us. I have friends that are trying to grow tails," he says.

Perhaps we are on the cusp of an exponential shift in artificial intelligence. The futurist Hans Moravec is famous for highlighting a paradox within AI and robotics: contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires relatively little computational power, as opposed to low-level sensorimotor skills of the sort we all take for granted, which require enormous computational resources. The self-driving car, a problem recently solved by Google, demonstrates a leap forward in this area.


Istvan told IBTimes UK: "I get asked a lot what Transhumanism is - the movement is growing so it's becoming more things. In the beginning I wouldn't have said it was about driverless cars, but now I think driverless cars and drones and basic things that consumers are starting to use are very transhuman. But of course most people still think of Transhumanism as artificial hearts, or bionic limbs or some kind of like telepathy headset."

As it turns out machines are very good at doing the sort of data analysis that goes into stock trading and learning from past performance. This has been going on since the 1990's. It is by virtue of Moore's Law, whereby computational power doubles every couple of years or so, that finance data analysis has become a vast and intelligent system. Istvan said it's no surprise that the likes of JP Morgan want to clamp down $30m or $40m to an AI project. Recently data scientist Ben Goertzel announced that his financial prediction firm, Aidyia Holdings will run entirely on artificial intelligence.

"There may be traders and even executives on Wall Street that are also worried about one day losing their jobs due to machine learning, but at the same time these guys are all looking for an edge. Who doesn't want to end up running a company that makes a gazillion dollars and has very little personnel? The writing is on the wall - their jobs are going to end. This is the future. There is no question that the entire financial industry is going to be machine learning within the next five to 15 years."

I have got friends that are trying to grow tails

The predictions of Transhumanists are typically much more controversial than the automation of Wall Street. Istvan's Presidential campaign continually highlights concepts such as designer babies, to ignite debate around these sorts of ethically sensitive issues.

"It's amazing to me that Hilary Clinton or Jed Bush or Trump will not say anything about designer babies, even though virtually every scientist you talk about says the genetic editing, the gene editing innovations in the last two years have the potential to forever change the human race.

"I mean I have got friends that are trying to grow tails. I have friends that are literally trying to splice plant DNA into their own DNA so that they can go out in the sun and get energy into their cells directly from the sun, so they'd have photosynthesis capabilities."

Istvan said we are slowly seeing a discursive space where biohackers and transhumanists can share the potential to "mess with themselves", especially now with DIY DNA CRISPER kits.

"If you think losing our jobs to robots is crazy, I mean people walking around with tails and horns coming out of their head, that's really crazy and yet, we now have this possibility. I think Transhumanism is wonderful but a lot of the questions are going unanswered because it's coming so fast and nobody is really quite ready for it.

"I think I shock a lot of people when i say there are six companies out there that are working on a robotic eye and probably within 12-15 years people will start electively replacing one eye so they can have a robotic eye that can then stream media inside that eye that will be tied directly to their optic nerve, they will be able to see literally with accuracy 100 miles, they will be able to see germs on your partner's body. We are talking about upgrades that people are going to get because they are so much more functional, in the same way that we now carry a smart phone everywhere with us. This is not science fiction anymore - this is very, very close."

One obvious concern is that Transhumanism if allowed to progress in an unbridled fashion would create genetic underclass of people who couldn't afford specially designed hyper-intelligent offspring.

invites the government to step in and prevent this scenario. "The last thing we want to do is promote a whole new class of people, wealthy people who could take the technology and use it, while others would not see the benefits.

zoltan bus
Zoltan Istvan's Presidential campaign bus in Mississippi

"Like my policies would say with designed babies, there's no way in hell I would allow only the rich to have access to the designed baby technology. We would have a mandate that would say, any class of people would have access; even if the government has to grants, if they want it. In my book, it would be illegal for a rich person to augment the intelligence of their children and not have that same ability for someone who doesn't have the money.

"This isn't like having a nice car versus having a bad car. This is about your children having an extra 20% of genetic IQ. So therefore everyone needs it on a very equal level. Otherwise you have a Brave New World."

Regardless of what state of flux it may be in, Istvan restates his faith in humanity. Technology has historically always had the effect of benefitting mankind, he says. Moreover, today's millennials and company leaders are egalitarian by nature and everything that happens in the world is instantly shared on social media. Returning to the subject of designer tails, he says: "Some of the stuff Transhumanist are doing is totally non-functional and this is one of those things that it's totally non-functional and it comes with any movement.

"It's not that you would necessarily have a tail forever, you are just trying to manipulate your genes in order to do that. But I must say one thing a lot Transhumanists are interested in, and I'm personally interested in, is potentially growing gills, becoming somewhat of a fish.

"To have capabilities to breath underwater - that in itself is a very difficult feat to achieve but the same time, you can start to see some real functionality. I'm a surfer so that would be fun."