They Think We Can Do Better
Spending time with eco-warriors, transhumanists, anti-Islamist activists and other disgruntled opponents of the status quo. Brian C. Anderson reviews “Radicals Chasing Utopia: Inside the Rogue Movements Trying to Change the World” by Jamie Bartlett.
From Islamists to angry populists to militant environmentalists, liberal democratic societies face growing pressure from movements that want to shatter the status quo and replace it with a new and (to them) better order. In “Radicals Chasing Utopia,” the British journalist Jamie Bartlett sets out to describe and understand this new spirit of radicalism. The consensus that defines “ ‘normal’ political ideas,” he says, has been blown apart—and that’s a good thing. Not everyone will agree.
Mr. Bartlett provides a series of profiles of radicals in action. First up: the “transhumanists,” technophiles who believe that man and machine should merge and that “any rational person should spend their every waking moment on a quest to stay alive.” Mr. Bartlett joins Zoltan Istvan Gyurko, the Los Angeles-based presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party, as he campaigns across several states in an “immortality bus” remade to look like a coffin. The trip culminates in Washington, where Zoltan posts a Transhumanist Bill of Rights on the Capitol Building. It demands government support for life extension, the elimination of physical disabilities and rights for cyborgs.
It all seems a bit silly. The beat-up bus leaks oil, and Zoltan has little hope of getting on ballots, let alone winning many votes. But in Mr. Bartlett’s view, the transhumanists are at least talking about the social implications of the technologies coming our way, fast, including artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation. What would happen if, as Zoltan desires, we “solve” the problem of aging? Soon, Mr. Bartlett argues, we won’t be able to ignore such questions.
Mr. Bartlett also hits the road with Pegida, an anti-Islamist organization founded in Germany in 2014....
Brian C. Anderson is the editor of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute
This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal