Huffington Post, “A Stanford University Debate: Transhumanism vs. Anarcho-Primitivism,” November 20, 2014

A Stanford University Debate: Transhumanism vs. Anarcho-Primitivism
Zoltan Istvan, Huffington Post,  November 20, 2014

Last Saturday night at Stanford University, I had the honor of publicly debating the world’s leading anarcho-primitivist philosopher John Zerzan. As a transhumanist, I differ from Zerzan on just about every topic. According to Wikipedia, anarcho-primitivism “advocates for a return to a non-‘civilized’ way of life through deindustrialization.” Transhumanism advocates for the continued use of science and technology to improve and change the human species. Simply put, Zerzan encourages everyone to give up civilization and go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. And I encourage everyone to do more to speed up technological and scientific progress. It was a meeting of polar opposite views. The debate headline was: Zoltan vs. Zerzan.

Hosted by the Stanford Transhumanist Association in the university’s Geology Corner Auditorium, the debate was deliberately formal. John and I each took three 5-10 minute turns at a podium. Additionally, a 20 minute Q & A followed the debate. Unfortunately, the main video camera recording the event failed. Luckily, a second recording exists from laptops that captured the entire debate, but the quality is mediocre at best. Additionally, the footage misses the most exciting parts of the event, such as loud anti-civilization hecklers or the anarchist-dominated 140-person audience. The vibe in the auditorium was quite tense, and some transhumanists were worried about safety issues because no university security was present. In the very back stood people who some suggested were black bloc participants: individuals who dress in black, wear face-concealing masks and gear, and cause civil unrest. Many of them came to meet John Zerzan, who is well known as a past confidant of the Unabomber and has also had associations with many anarchist-type groups.

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