Zoltan Istvan Zoltan Istvan. Endless Eye

The 1960s were about peace, love, and drugs. I believe the next decade will be about virtual reality, implants, and transhumanism.

Even though I was born after the 1960s, I've always been fascinated with that era. Some people credit Ken Kesey’s cross country bus trip as helping to spawn a generation of hippies. My Immortality Bus trip — a cross-country bus journey to spread the word about my Transhumanist Party campaign for the 2016 U.S. presidency, along with the need for a pro-science and longevity culture — aims to stir up the national consciousness as well.

My goal is to usher in a cultural shift to transhumanism — the idea that human capacity can be enhanced by technology.

To start, I got a chip implanted in my hand.

Because the first stop of the bus tour was at a biohacker event in Tehachapi, California, called GrindFest, a lot of us had chipping and implants on our minds. The founder of GrindFest, biohacker Jeffery Tibbetts, gave implants to journalist Dylan Matthews and myself —specifically, glass-encased Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) NFC chips, which can store information and unlock devices, among other things.

This involved a simple 60-second injection procedure. The implant was placed into our hands through a thick and slightly intimidating needle. I was a little worried about getting it at first, but Rich Lee, a biohacker advisor to the Transhumanist Party, told me it was safe and I would barely feel a thing.

He was right. The procedure was quick and mostly pain-free.

Given the name of my presidential coach — the Immortality Bus — it’s no surprise that the primary goal of most transhumanists is to eliminate biological death altogether. Some gerontologists believe we are just decades away from that time.

Aubrey de Grey, chief scientist at SENS Research Foundation and the Transhumanist Party anti-aging advisor, told Reuters in 2011, "I'd say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing aging under what I'd call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so."

My friends and I laughed when comparing our bus trip to the trips of the '60s. Instead of taking LSD and wandering around the desert speaking to plants (something I’ve done before), we shot up implants and tried waving our hands across cars that might start up — without keys — when recognizing the RFID chip.

Zoltan chip Zoltan's hand after getting chipped. Roen Horn

Someone at the GrindFest could actually do this with his chip. There was also a skull implant on display promising biohackers the ability to listen to music wirelessly, and people sliced open their fingers to get magnet implants so they could have the “sixth sense” of feeling metal around them. 

With my implant, I wondered if I might somehow control the 4-foot robot that travels around with us on the bus. 

My bus tour aims to celebrate this growing tech landscape, but more importantly, it also aims tackle serious issues. As one of the youngest 2016 US presidential candidates, I know America can do better than it is. I know we can transform this country into a scientific and education powerhouse.

It doesn’t mean we have to give up a strong economy. Rather, it means we turn bomb factories into medical research labs; we turn prisons into universities that offer free education; we divert spending on wars into spending on science. And if fighting is your thing, we can still fight trillion dollar wars, but let’s fight them against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, aging, and even death.

Immortality BusZoltan Istvan

Lots of radical tech already surrounds us. Consider that today the blind can see via bionic eyes, the paralyzed can walk via exoskeleton suits, and the limbless can grab a beer and drink with artificial limbs that connect to their nervous system. Science is rapidly making the world a better place, and it’s eliminating suffering and hardship along the way.

In 10 or 15 years, we might even be giving ourselves brain implants.

It sounds futuristic. But at the end of the day, after getting my RFID chip implant, we were still traveling around in a nearly 40-year-old bus. After the GrindFest we cruised to Las Vegas for my next speech, listening to cassette tapes from my youth on the way. I put on The Doors, and thought maybe the generational gap isn’t as wide as it seems. 

Zoltan Istvan is a futurist, 2016 US Presidential Candidate of the Transhumanist Party, and author of The Transhumanist Wager.