Radicals Chasing Utopia

Inside the Rogue Movements Trying to Change the World


By Jamie Bartlett

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“It’s the hubris of every generation to think that they have arrived at the best way of living. But all the things we now take for granted, all the modern wisdoms we hold to be self-evident, were once derided as dangerous or foolish radical thinking.” — From the Prologue

In Radicals Chasing Utopia, Jamie Bartlett, one of the world’s leading thinkers on radical politics and technology, takes readers inside the strange and exciting worlds of the innovators, disrupters, idealists, and extremists who think we can do better-and believe they know how. Bartlett introduces us to some of the most influential movements today: techno-futurists questing for immortality, far-right groups seeking to close borders, militant environmentalists striving to save the planet by any means necessary, and psychedelic pioneers attempting to heal society with the help of powerful hallucinogens.

The success of democratic societies hinges on our ability to listen to-and in some cases learn from-the radical movements in our midst. Their methods may be extreme, but in chasing utopia, these groups are challenging what is possible and previewing the world to come.



The Transhumanist's Wager

There are thirty-eight numbers on an American roulette wheel: eighteen black, eighteen red and two green. To play, you place bets on which number, or colour or range of numbers the small white ball will land on when the wheel is spun. That's the decision facing Zoltan, Jeremiah, Dylan and me as we stand around a wheel in Harrah's Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard. Although it's approaching midnight in early September, it's incredibly hot outside. Not that you'd know it, because Harrah's and every other casino here is blasted with oxygenated air conditioning designed to keep us all awake. Like hundreds of other hopeful gamblers in Harrah's, we're losing.1 For one last spin of the wheel, the four of us agree to put all our remaining chips, which is about $250, on black. If the ball lands on a black number, we double our money and walk out even. But because of those two green numbers, the odds aren't 50–50, but 45–55 against us. That 'house edge' means that, although you can win for a while, the longer you play the greater the likelihood you'll lose. If you play long enough, the probability you'll lose approaches certainty. The casinos obscure this unpalatable truth with free drinks, music, oxygenated air con and 'change your life' posters. In the end the house always wins.

'Are we going out on a loss?' says Dylan, as the croupier shouts 'No more bets.'

'We always go out on a loss,' replies Zoltan.

The four of us had arrived in Las Vegas the day before on a forty-foot-long bus redesigned to look like a giant coffin on wheels. Its nickname is 'the Immortality Bus'. Zoltan is a transhumanist, and he's running for president.

Transhumanism is a growing community of thousands of people who believe that technology can make us physically, intellectually, even morally better; that we can and should use technology to overcome the limits imposed by our biological and genetic heritage—especially mortality—and thereby exceed the constraints of the human condition. Like most transhumanists, Zoltan believes that death is a biological quirk of nature, something we should not accept as inevitable.

Transhumanists work on a dazzling array of cutting-edge technologies to that end, everything from life extension, anti-ageing genetic research, robotics, artificial intelligence, cybernetics, space colonisation, virtual reality and cryonics. For the transhumanists, there is no 'natural' state of man. We're always changing and adapting, and embracing technology is simply the next step along the evolutionary cycle. In the end, that might mean humans transforming themselves into something not really human, but rather post-human. For transhumanists, not to pursue every techno-avenue available to improve the human condition is both irrational and immoral because, if we can relieve suffering and improve well-being with technology, then we must.

Although the quest for immortality arguably starts with the very first recorded piece of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, a 4,000-year-old poem about Gilgamesh's quest for the secret of eternal life, transhumanism's modern roots are found in the ideas of early twentieth-century science-fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov and the biologist Julian Huxley (brother of Aldous), who coined the term 'transhuman' to mean 'beyond human' in his 1951 book Knowledge, Morality and Destiny.2 Huxley, an agnostic on religious matters, thought that man's natural evolution was of ever higher degrees of complexity, towards the 'fullest realisation of his own inherent possibilities', even if that meant transcending humanity. As science and technology started to have a profound effect on society in the 1960s and 1970s, those 'inherent possibilities' started to stretch. Organisations—often inspired by Huxley's or Asimov's writing—were founded to promote life extension and various types of radical futurist thinking. By the mid-1980s small groups of self-described transhumanists started meeting formally in California to discuss if and how technology might change human existence. In 1990—the year of the first gene-therapy trials, the first designer babies, and the World Wide Web—Max More set out a coherent philosophy of the movement in an influential paper called 'Transhumanism: towards a futurist philosophy'. 'Transhumanism shares many elements of humanism including a respect for reason and science' wrote More, but it is different from humanism 'in recognizing and anticipating the radical alterations in the nature and possibilities of our lives resulting from various sciences and technologies'.* This collection of academics, scientists and sci-fi nerds slowly grew into a movement that spanned the world. In 1998 Nick Bostrom and David Pearce founded the World Transhumanist Association, with the hope of having transhumanism recognised as a legitimate area of scientific research and public policy.

Over the last decade, technology has opened up transhuman possibilities that were once just science fiction. Life extension is now seriously studied in leading universities, while robotics and artificial intelligence receive millions of dollars of investment. There are now tens of thousands of self-declared transhumanists based all over the world, including influential people at the heart of the world's tech scene. Ray Kurzweil, a firm believer in the 'singularity moment' (the point at which artificial intelligence becomes so advanced that it begins to produce new and ever more advanced versions of itself), is a senior engineer at Google. Billionaire Peter Thiel—co-founder of PayPal, influential Silicon Valley investor and a member of President Donald Trump's transition team—is also a self-declared transhumanist and has invested millions of dollars into life extension and artificial-intelligence projects. Transhumanism is fast becoming the meeting point between science and science fiction.

Zoltan is obsessed with odds. And one wager in particular dominates his life: the transhumanist's wager. Derived from Pascal's more famous version (which argues that any rational person should believe in God because if he exists the gain is infinity in paradise; and if he does not, then the loss is only a few inconveniences here on earth for a limited number of years), the transhumanist's wager states that any rational person should spend their every waking moment on a quest to stay alive:

The wager and quintessential motto of the transhumanist movement states that if you love life, you will safeguard that life, and strive to extend and improve it for as long as possible. Anything else you do while alive, any other opinion you have, any other choice you make to not safeguard, extend, and improve that life, is a betrayal of that life… This is a historic choice that each man and woman on the planet must make.3

Zoltan lives his life by this severe doctrine. His 'historic choice' is to spend 2015 and 2016 making an obviously hopeless effort to get elected for president of the United States. When Zoltan first telephoned me in mid-2015 to invite me to join the campaign, he explained that this would be no ordinary presidential tour. He knew he needed a weird campaign to make people listen to his message, so he planned a four-month road trip on a 1978 Wanderlodge bus redesigned to look like a coffin. He would visit evangelical churches and instruct the congregation to give up on heaven and live forever here on earth. He would hold rallies and marches with robots. He would visit a bio-hacking lab to get a chip implanted in his hand, and check out a cryonic freezing centre in Arizona. He would generally make trouble and probably get arrested. And for the big finale, emulating the Reformation radical Martin Luther, Zoltan would nail a Transhumanist Bill of Rights to the Capitol Building in Washington DC, which would proclaim that robots and artificial intelligence should have the same rights as humans. And he would bring as many journalists along as he possibly could to cover this madcap adventure, and would put no restrictions on what we could write or film.

Zoltan's wager is that this expensive, exhausting and risky stunt will generate positive publicity for the fledgling movement, maybe even propel transhumanism into a serious political force.

That's why I'm here, in Las Vegas, standing around a roulette wheel, throwing away my money. To see if he can pull this wager off.

The Immortality Bus

Zoltan Istvan Gyurko was born in Los Angeles in 1973. His uncle, a political dissident, had fled the Communist regime in Hungary in 1966, and his father followed suit two years later and claimed asylum. Zoltan had a conventional upbringing, and excelled at school, where he became a national-level swimmer. While other children played, Zoltan was usually in the pool training. This love of water continued throughout his life. At age twenty-one he abandoned a degree in philosophy to circumnavigate the world by boat equipped with 500 works of literature. During the trip, which took seven years in total, he became a war correspondent for National Geographic and a director of a non-profit wildlife group, WildAid, where he used militia tactics in South East Asia to protect endangered wildlife.

While covering a story for National Geographic in Vietnam's demilitarised zone in 2003, Zoltan almost stepped on a landmine. His guide pushed him out of the way of the mostly buried device at the last second. The near-death experience made him acutely aware of his mortality, and terrified by the prospect of death. He remembered having read an article about transhumanism a few years earlier and went online to learn more. He was hooked by the idea that, with the aid of modern science, he might avoid death altogether. 'From that point on, I decided to dedicate my life to the transhumanist cause,' Zoltan says.

On returning to California in the mid-2000s Zoltan set up a small real-estate company, renovating houses and selling them on. As the Silicon Valley property market exploded in the wake of the tech boom, he made enough money to retire and focus on transhumanism full-time. He moved to Marin County, just north of San Francisco, where he settled with his wife, Lisa, and had two young daughters, Ava and Isla. He began dedicating between twelve and fourteen hours a day to transhumanist-related work: attending conferences, writing articles, recruiting friends and writing a work of fiction-cum-philosophy, The Transhumanist Wager. But after it was published, to some minor acclaim in transhumanist circles, he began to think the movement's appeal was limited because it was too academic, too obsessed with science.

If transhumanism was going to reach the masses, Zoltan thought, it needed a PR overhaul. It needed to become less about the science, and more about the big ideas. It needed to become more accessible to ordinary folk. And the quickest way to do that, he thought, was to pull off a big media stunt. In October 2014 Zoltan announced in a blog post on the Huffington Post that he'd be running for president with the newly founded Transhumanist Party.4

He created a board of influential transhumanist advisers and, following several meetings and discussions with them, sketched out an eye-grabbing transhumanist manifesto to take to the American people. This included a Transhumanist Bill of Rights advocating government support of longer lifespans via science and technology, rights for robots and cyborgs, phasing out of all individual taxes (because Zoltan believes robots will be taking most human jobs in the next twenty years), morphological freedom (the right to do anything with your body as long as it doesn't harm other people), replacing prisons with small squadrons of drones that will follow convicted criminals around, legalising recreational drugs (he wants to be the first president to smoke weed in the White House*) and eliminating all physical disabilities. But his main policy, his big-ticket pitch, is to create 'a scientific- and educational-industrial complex' that would replace the military-industrial complex and end ageing and death within a generation.

Zoltan found a classified ad for a 1978 Blue Bird Wanderlodge RV in nearby Sacramento, which he bought for $10,000, drove home and parked in his driveway. He then set up a page on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo asking for $25,000 to fund the 'Immortality Bus with Presidential Candidate Zoltan' (including '$15,000 for making the bus; $5,000 for a full size interactive robot and other tech; $5,000 for gas, food etc'*).

By August 2015, 135 separate funders had helped him reach his target. As summer approached Zoltan and a couple of volunteers worked in his driveway from morning until night trying to make the bus look like a coffin: fitting new tyres and a wooden lid, and painting it brown.

He isn't quite finished when, on a gloriously hot and sunny afternoon in September 2015, I turn up to find him kneeling and hammering on the roof of a bus that vaguely resembles a coffin, with 'Immortality Bus' painted on the side in enormous silver letters. Zoltan is physically very fit and, although forty-two, still looks like a Californian surfer. 'Welcome to the Immortality Bus!' he says, simultaneously grinning and wiping sweat from his brow. 'We're almost finished. I need another couple of hours.' I'm the last to arrive. Dylan, twenty-five, is a super-smart and slightly nerdy journalist from Washington DC who writes for the online magazine vox.com. He's doing daily dispatches. There's a Polish journalist in her late thirties called Magda, who's based in California as a foreign correspondent, and she's planning to join periodically. Jeremiah Hammerling, thirty-one, is a lone documentary maker and is already hard at work, zipping around the bus as he films Zoltan's every move from experimental angles. They are here for the same reason I am: the irresistible draw of writing about a man running for president promising immortality in a 1978 Wanderlodge designed to look like a coffin on wheels. Naturally there is a robot on board too: a $400, three-foot-tall robot made by Meccano, which Zoltan names Jethro, after the chief protagonist in his book.

Finally, there is Roen (pronounced 'Rowan'), who is one of Zoltan's volunteers and a 'true devotee', as he describes himself. Roen's job is to assist Zoltan and to document the experience and share it on Zoltan's many social media accounts.5 Roen is twenty-eight, thin and tall, with long greasy hair and a wispy beard—and terrified of death. He has, he says, been obsessed with mortality since the age of nine, when he fell off his bike and ruptured his spleen. He lives at home with his parents, and doesn't work, which means he can spend all his time on his social media page, Eternal Life Fan Club, or researching nutrition and health. Roen first met Zoltan at a transhumanist conference in California in 2013 and they struck up an online correspondence. When Zoltan decided he needed an assistant for the campaign, he asked Roen if he'd be interested. 'It was the greatest honour of my life,' recalls Roen. He accepted immediately.

The campaign, explains Zoltan as we load our bags into the back end of the coffin, will comprise a dozen or so stages, each lasting a few days, as he winds his way from the west coast towards Washington DC. On this first stage we'll be on the road for five days, driving to a bio-hacking lab in Central California for Zoltan to have a chip implanted, and then on to Las Vegas for a technology exhibition and a set-piece speech. Most of the time, Zoltan says, will be spent inside the bus. Fortunately for us the Immortality Bus is reasonably comfortable. Two rows of seating line the front half, followed by a tightly fitted kitchenette and then two more rows of seating/beds. The bus, which is almost entirely brown or beige, can make 55 mph on the flat, but develops a noticeable rattle at anything over 40 mph. The only slight worry is the heat: Zoltan has unfortunately covered the air-conditioning vent with the wooden casket he's nailed to the roof. 'Guys, do not turn the air-con on,' Zoltan warns us as we climb aboard. 'Or there is a strong possibility we'll all die.'

Striking Oil

Five hours later than planned, Zoltan declares the presidential campaign is ready to begin. He hops into the driver's seat, carrying a bulletproof vest. 'This is important,' he says. 'We're taking this. Just in case.' A small crowd, including Lisa, Ava and Isla, have gathered on the street to see us off.

Zoltan, sitting behind a hula-hoop-sized steering wheel, mutters under his breath, 'Let's hope this thing works,' as he starts the bus. And it does. 'The Immortality Bus is on its way,' Roen says excitedly into his camera as Zoltan slowly navigates the RV out of his narrow driveway. 'Let's try to live forever everyone! This is the moment I've been waiting for. I'm not talking about a hundred years or 300 years. That's for amateurs. I'm talking about im-mor-tal-ity.'

The bus slowly bundles its way from the expensively quaint Marin County into San Francisco, the heart of the world's tech scene, and then joins California State Route 1, which snakes along the Pacific coast. We have about four hours of driving to reach our first stop, a bio-hacking lab in the Mojave Desert in Central California. Zoltan is in front driving, with Jethro riding shotgun. The rest of us are in the back, getting acquainted, as Zoltan tries without success to get the cassette player to work.

Two hours in we stop for coffee at a roadside Starbucks. Zoltan, inspecting the vehicle in the car park, suddenly looks distraught. 'Oh man,' he says. 'We have got a problem. A big problem.' Oil is leaking everywhere. Zoltan opens up the engine and starts peering about with his flashlight.

'Either it's a blown gasket or any one of a dozen small leaks,' says Zoltan. If it's the former, he says, the trip is over, because finding gaskets for a 1978 Wanderlodge is as difficult as it sounds. As we wait, Zoltan runs in and out of the bus, pressing buttons and inspecting the engine and then the oil pool that is forming on the road. 'Our hope is that things go forward eventually,' Dylan says to me clutching his notepad, 'following repeated snags and catastrophes.'

After lengthy discussions over the phone with his father, Zoltan decides that we can probably continue after all, but we'll have to add oil to the engine every hour. By now it's very late and there are no motels to be found. So we park in a McDonald's drive-thru car park and decide to sleep on the bus. Everyone is hungry, but the RV Wanderlodge won't fit through the drive-thru lane, so Zoltan stands in line behind three cars, and walks-thru. But when he gets to the front of the line the cash attendant tells him they can only serve cars. To cheer us up, Zoltan opens a bottle of bourbon and pours us each a cup.

He toasts that we'd made it this far (which, given we're travelling about 40 mph, isn't very far), that he's glad to be here together and relieved the bus works. He says he knows he won't win the election and will probably concede and support Democrat Hillary Clinton in the end. We raise our cups and drain the bourbon. Zoltan pours us another.


The early morning sun dawns bright and directly through the shallow curtains, revealing strewn bodies in various stages of alertness. Zoltan is already up, pacing up and down the car park as he talks on the phone to his dad about gaskets and oil levels. Despite some grumblings, the Immortality Bus has decided not to expire during the night, and four short hours after we'd gone to bed we are back on the road, driving towards Tehachapi, and the bio-hacking lab.

Tehachapi looks like a frontier town. It's up an enormous sandy hill, which the bus just about conquers. There are a dozen rows of prefabricated houses dotted across the dusty dunes. Around twenty-five 'grinders' have come from all over the country for Grindfest, a three-day meetup to discuss ideas, share tips and operate on each other.6

Bio-hacking, or DIY biology, refers to biological research or experiments outside formal academia or corporate settings. It's biology of the home-made, rough-and-ready variety, usually undertaken in basements or garages. One of the first bio-hackers was a man called Kevin Warwick who, in 1998, put a microchip in his own body to see what would happen.7 Two years later he had cybernetic sensors implanted into the nerves of his arms, allowing him to roughly control a robotic arm.8 The movement soon spread. DIYBio, an international umbrella group founded in 2008, advertises, at the time of writing, seventy-five bio-hacking organisations or events across the globe, from Tel Aviv, New York, Munich, London, São Paolo and Sydney.9 Other examples include BioCurious, a lab in California; Genspace, a 'community biolab' in New York; and the London Biohackspace.

Grinders are a branch of this movement who specialise in body modification and 'self-focusing', meaning they operate on themselves. They read academic papers, discuss studies, formulate ideas, build stuff using supplies they've bought from hardware stores or the Net and try it on themselves. Advocates of 'open source' technology, they publish and share all the results of their endeavours.10 Rich Lee—one of the organisers of Grindfest, and the Transhumanist Party's bio-hacking adviser—estimates that there are around 3,000 grinders in the United States, and many more bio-hackers.

Grinders usually meet on the Web forum www.biohack.me. But this weekend was the chance to meet fellow grinders in person and conduct experiments. Several plan to insert microchips and magnets into their body. One has designed a nineteenth-century duelling scar he'd like to run down the front of his face. Zoltan has decided to get a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip implant.11 An RFID chip is smaller than a grain of rice, and stores small amounts of information that can be recognised by other compatible devices if they are programmed to do so.

As we park up and jump off the bus, Rich Lee welcomes us and takes us into the 'lab' where the experiments are taking place. But it isn't really much of a lab; it's just a large double garage of the house. There are sterilised needles, and a big workbench around which several grinders are huddled looking at small cultures of bacteria. Strewn across the lab are wires, tools, microchips and laptops. There's a big dentist's chair in a separate, possibly mildly sterilised, room, which is where Zoltan will have his procedure.

Rich looks more like a rock star than a scientist, with a shaved head and long black beard. He works as a cardboard salesman during the day, he says, and grinds by night. In 2012 Rich was told by his doctor that he was slowly going blind. So he decided to learn to echo-navigate using sonar waves, a little like a bat. In 2013 he inserted two small magnets into his ears and then built himself a coil to put around his neck to create a magnetic field. The coil is picked up by the magnets and turned into sound. Although originally intended to pick up ultrasound, Rich quickly realised he could plug anything into it. He now uses it to 'hear' heat, take phone calls and listen to music. 'The sound quality is OK,' he says. 'Like a cheap set of headphones.' Rich is already working on his next project: a vibrating implant that he's going to embed under his pubic bone to make his penis vibrate during sex. He calls it the LoveTron9000. 'It's very difficult to get it right. But I think it's almost there.'

Grinders' approach to biology is 'try it and see what happens'. Steve is a twenty-year-old self-taught computer hacker who left school at sixteen. He's designed and made a gadget to translate signals into noise. It's about the size of a thick postage stamp. He's planning to insert it into the base of his skull so that his brain can hear these sounds directly.

'It's going to be awesome. I'll be able to connect my brain to the internet, I'll be able to feel sounds. And my brain will start to adapt. I'll be a node on the internet!' he says.

'What if someone hacks into your system and starts sending you horrible noises?' I ask.

'I think that would be awesome.'


'I'd love to know what they do, and how they do it.'

Nearly all the grinders have RFID chip implants. One has set up his phone so it unlocks when he holds it over his thumb. Another scans her chip to share contact information with me. Julius, a smart nineteen-year-old from Texas who works in software, walks me over to his car and unlocks it with his hand. He then starts it with his hand. Like every other grinder, he'd reprogrammed it all himself.

Zoltan doesn't have a chip yet, which is mildly embarrassing for a man hoping to become the country's first transhumanist president. After wandering around the lab and chatting to grinders, Zoltan sits down in the dentist's chair. He looks nervous.

'I'm not nervous. I'm excited!' he tells us.

'OK Zoltan,' says David, a red-headed grinder in his early thirties who is also a registered nurse. He will be performing the procedure. 'Good to have you here.' He's inserted two dozen RFID chips this weekend alone.

'I'm a little nervous now,' says Zoltan, as David pulls out a large needle. 'I told you I wasn't. I lied.'

'I've done much worse,' says David.

But the implant is very simple. Zoltan grits his teeth, looks away, looks back at his hand, and we all jostle to get a better view. Jeremiah works the angles with his lens fixed on Zoltan's worried face. 'Here goes,' says David, placing the needle between Zoltan's thumb and index finger. He pushes the syringe all the way down, which injects the tiny chip under the skin. It's over in thirty seconds.*

'Are you feeling more than human now?' I ask.

'I feel like I'm about to wake up in the Matrix,' laughs Zoltan, as he clenches and unclenches his fist. 'That wasn't too bad.'

There are millions of RFID chips in all sorts of daily devices already, such as fob keys and pets' collars. In 2015 the market in RFID chips was worth around $10 billion, and this is expected to almost double within ten years. But this RFID chip can't do much because it's not compatible with iPhones, which is what Zoltan has. So instead, his chip is programmed to say 'Win 2016' if someone else hovers their (Samsung) phone over it. Disappointment notwithstanding, he mentions his chip at every opportunity for the rest of the trip. He says he'll get it upgraded in six months: 'This is just the start.' (When I checked back in six months later, he hadn't upgraded but was still planning to.) In fact, he immediately declares he wants to have a cranium chip implanted, which could connect him to artificial intelligence, 'so I'd be one of the first to communicate with the machines'.

After the procedure, Zoltan does his best to persuade the grinders to get involved in the Transhumanist Party. Few have heard of him, and none of them say they will vote for him. It transpires that bio-hackers and transhumanists have recently fallen out. 'Transhumanists have been promising us jet packs and immortality,' Rich Lee tells me, as Zoltan woos the voters. 'And we've still not seen anything. I decided the only way anything would happen was if we just did it ourselves. We're sick of transhumanists' bullshit promises.' In early 2015 four grinders started a research group called Science for the Masses to test infrared sight. After reading some academic papers, one of them spent several months on a vitamin A–deficient diet and had chlorine e6 insulin and saline dropped into his eyes. He found he had improved vision in the dark for several hours, with no noticeable long-term effects. Some of the more traditional transhumanist scientists complained about the methods and ethics of the experiment, criticising this DIY approach to science. 'Everyone appreciated Zoltan coming,' says Rich, 'but opinion about transhumanism is still varied.'


  • "Radicals Chasing Utopia sets out to describe and understand this new spirit of radicalism... Throughout, Mr. Bartlett is a friendly guide, with a reporter's eye for detail and a willingness to engage with his subjects."—Wall Street Journal
  • "Bartlett is an accomplished journalist: careful, dispassionate and willing to put the time in. And once again he does the work, spending time with people whom less committed reporters might wish to avoid. And he does so with a degree of sympathy that is as impressive as it is rare."—The Guardian
  • "Enlightening and unnerving...Bartlett, ever the knowledgeable guide through murky political and technological waters...embeds himself with these groups and approaches each with a commendable balance of genuine open-mindedness and healthy skepticism...A highly recommended read, Radicals Chasing Utopia could influence you to chase after some of these utopian organizations and ideas, or make you want to flee from them just the same."—New York Journal of Books
  • "Eye-opening...enlightening."—The Huffington Post
  • "Bartlett is right to remind us that democracies are not necessarily the natural order, and that they need fresh ideas to survive some very scary emerging challenges."—The Evening Standard
  • "The disparate groups of modern-day utopians Bartlett presents here include Islamophobic Europeans, political parties that reject the label and mission of political parties, free-love practitioners in a Portuguese ecovillage, and a group of crypto-currency enthusiasts trying to create the world's most libertarian country in a Balkan swamp. The author's portraits sometimes find these activists at less than their best, whether it is the group of transhumanists careening along in an odd, decidedly whimsical campaign for U.S. president or the shambolic machinations of the U.K. branch of the anti-Islam Pegida movement. The most striking feature of the radicals portrayed, though, is that the rejectionist, exclusionist movements mostly featured seem far more likely to catch on with broader followings than the exception, a psychedelic society dedicated to open-mindedness. Bartlett notes the amplifying effect of the Internet as an echo chamber for affirming beliefs that may not be widely accepted in broader society, and keeps his general observations upbeat, even in an age of angry political populism. He leaves readers with the observation that liberal societies are inherently risky and unstable, but their ability to accommodate radical views is also what allows them to change, and that change is generally for the better."—Publisher's Weekly

On Sale
Jun 13, 2017
Page Count
400 pages
Bold Type Books

Jamie Bartlett

About the Author

Jamie Bartlett is the bestselling author of The Dark Net (named a best book of the year by NPR and the Washington Post), Radicals, and The People Vs Tech, which was longlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing and won the 2019 Transmission Prize. He founded the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos and regularly writes on technology and society for the Spectator, the Sunday Times and elsewhere.

In 2017, Jamie presented the two-part BBC TWO documentary series The Secrets of Silicon Valley. His TedTalk about dark net drugs markets has been watched nearly six million times. In 2019 his critically acclaimed BBC podcast series, The Missing Cryptoqueen, reached number 1 on the iTunes charts, and has been downloaded millions of times.

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