Let’s Turn America’s Military-Industrial Complex Into A Science-Industrial Complex

By Zoltan Istvan | 17 July 2017
The Huffington Post

The US Government spends 10 times the amount on defense as it does science. (Credit: USGOV-PD and National Cancer Institute)

Many Americans subscribe to the annoying belief that our nation’s military-industrial complex is the surest way to remain the wealthiest and leading superpower in the world. After all, it’s worked for the last century, pro-military supporters love to point out.

However, America’s dependence on warmongering may soon become a liability that is impossible to maintain. Transhumanism, globalization, and outright replacement of human soldiers with robots are redefining the country’s military requirements, and they may eventually render defense budgets far smaller than those now. To compensate and keep America spending approximately 20 percent of the federal budget on defense (as we have for most of the last few years), we’ll either have to manufacture wars to use all our newly-made bombs, or find another way to keep the American economy afloat.

It just so happens that there is another way — a method that would satisfy liberals and conservatives alike, as well as other politically-minded folks (I’m a libertarian candidate for California governor). Instead of always spending more on our military, we could transition our nation and its economy into a scientific-industrial complex.

There’s a compelling reason to do this beyond what meets the eye. Transhumanist technology is starting to radically change human life. Many experts expect to be able to stop aging and conquer death for human beings in the next 25 years. Others, like myself, see humans merging with machines and replacing our organs with bionic ones.

Such a new transhuman society will require many trillions of dollars to satisfy humans ever-growing desire for physical perfection (machine or biological) in the transhumanist age. We could keep our economy humming along for decades because of it.

Whatever happens, something is going to have to give in the future regarding military profiteering. Part of this is because in the past, the military-industrial complex operated off always keeping a few million U.S. military members ready on a moment’s notice to travel around the world and fight. But there’s almost no scenario where we would need that kind of human-power (and infrastructure to support it) anymore.

Increasingly, small teams of special operation soldiers and uber-high tech are the way America fights its wars. We just don’t need massive military bases anymore, nor the thousands of companies to support the constant maintenance of ground troops. Such a reality changes the economics of the military dramatically, and will eventually leave it a fraction of its size in terms of personnel and real estate.

The coming military age of automated drones, robot tanks, cyberwarfare, and artificial intelligence just doesn’t require that many people.

We’ll still have the need for technology to fight the wars and conflicts we entangle ourselves in, but it’ll be mostly engineers, programmers, and technicians who wear the uniform. The coming military age of automated drones, robot tanks, cyberwarfare, and artificial intelligence just doesn’t require that many people. In fact, expect the military not just to shrink, but to mostly disappear into ones and zeroes.

Many people think that the beast of a military-industrial complex — made famous by President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning against it in his farewell address — appeared only in the last 50 years. However, others persuasively argue that America has been at war 93 percent of the time since the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 — so it’s been with us from the beginning.

In liberal California where I live, such facts annoy just about everyone I know — except, of course, those who are shareholders and beneficiaries of the defense industry. Thankfully, despite Congress being led by mostly older white religious men, the younger generation clamors for an improved America — one that can keep its economies running smoothly in a more peaceful way.

This is where the scientific-industrial complex comes in and could satisfy most everyone. And best of all, a society of science requires actual people. Lots of them: nurses, scientists, start-up CEOs, designers, technologists, and even lawyers. The advent of modern medicine to treat virtually every ailment — and the whole anti-aging movement, in general — affects all 325 million Americans. Over half of us suffer from health issues that can be improved but often aren’t, for a variety of reasons. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 40 percent of people over the age of 65 suffer from a disability — and for two thirds of them, it’s mobility-related issues. And millions are already racking up the symptoms of heart disease that will kill them. And a younger generation is just waiting to explore bionics, chip implants, and how to upgrade their genes to avoid health problems in the future. All this means we have the fodder to reshape the American economy from a militaristic-based one to a type that thrives off scientific and medical innovation.

Instead of spending American money on sending our soldiers to risk their lives for the whims of war, we could be giving civilians the medicine and healthcare they need to live far better and longer. And living longer has unseen benefits, too. In the future, bonafide transhumans won’t have to retire if they don’t want to. Their bodies will be ageless and made so strong through technology that work and careers may continue indefinitely — and therefore, they’ll be able to continue contributing to the economy indefinitely. Transhuman existence is a self-fulfilling economic-boom prophesy for both individual and country.

Currently, the U.S. Constitution (which I personally think needs a significant rewrite for the 21st century) is overly concerned with protection of national sovereignty — which is one major reason why the military-industrial complex is allowed to grow undeterred. If the U.S. Constitution was endowed with precise wording to also protect an individual’s health, well-being, and longevity, then a scientific-industrial complex could rise. This new cultural and legal reform would help to provide the most modern medicine, technology, and science possible to its people. And since I believe interpretation of the non-aggression principle should include harmful natural phenomena — like aging, existential risk, and disease — I believe minarchist values could support limited government to help people overcome these things.

Shamefully, the Iraq War will cost the U.S. approximately $6 trillion dollars by the time we’re actually done paying all our bills — despite the fact that it’s highly questionable whether Iraq was ever even a serious national security issue. However, our country undeniably faces a serious national security issue today — in fact, I’d call it a full blown crisis. Nearly 7,000 Americans will die in the next 24 hours from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, aging, and other issues. And the same amount of people will die tomorrow and the day after.

Overcoming disease and aging in the transhuman age will inevitably occur. The question is not if, but when? The answer lies in how much our nation is willing to spend on scientific and medical research — and how soon. But so long as it continues to spend money on the military instead of citizen’s health, human beings will die — which is ironic since it’s the military that is supposed to protect us (and not inadvertently sabotage us by swallowing funding for bombs instead of medicine). All we need do as a country is change the direction of our spending, from defense to science. If we can transform America into a scientific-industrial complex, we’ll still be able to keep our economy chugging along. Let America’s new wars be fought against cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and aging itself. It’s a win-win, except for body bag and casket makers.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Zoltan Istvan is a Libertarian candidate for California Governor 2018. Previously, he was a 2016 US Presidential candidate who aimed to put science, health, and technology at the forefront of American politics. At the age of 21, Zoltan began a solo, multi-year sailing journey around the world. He’s explored over 100 countries, many as a journalist for the National Geographic Channel. His work has also been featured in many major television channels, such as CNN, FOX News, and BBC. Zoltan writes futurist and transhumanist-themed blogs for The Huffington Post, Vice’s Motherboard (Transhumanist Future), and Psychology Today (The Transhumanist Philosopher). He has also written for Slate, Gizmodo, Daily Mail, Salon, Newsweek, Wired UK, Singularity Hub, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Outside. Zoltan has started various successful businesses, from real estate development to filmmaking to viticulture, joining them under ZI Ventures. He is a philosophy and religious studies graduate of Columbia University and resides in San Francisco with his two daughters and physician wife. Zoltan is the creator of the Immortality Bus, a 38-foot vehicle shaped like a coffin to spread the message that science can conquer death. He is the author of The Transhumanist Wager, an award-winning, #1 bestselling Philosophy book describing philosopher Jethro Knights and his unwavering quest for immortality via science and technology. You can follow his work at zoltanistvan.com, on Wakelet, Facebook and on Twitter.

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