America spends 45 percent of its discretionary federal spending on defense and wars, while around us, the world burns in ways that have nothing to do with fighting or the military. The global warming crisis has exploded. heart diseases . will kill a fifth of the people we know. And an opioid crisis is reducing the average lifespans of Americans for the first time in decades. There’s plenty of tragedy, fear, and hardship all around us, but it has nothing to do with the need to make more bombs. Science is the answer.
It seems obvious America should do something different than spend so much of its tax dollars on defense. We should consider halving that money, and directing it to science, transforming America from a military-industrial complex into a science-industrial complex. Despite science and technological progress being broadly responsible for raising the standard of living around the world over the last 50 years, America spends only 3 percent of its GDP ($205 billion) on science and medical research across the federal government. Notably, this is dramatically less than the $877 billion the U.S. will spend on defense this year.
The famous designation of the term military-industrial complex comes from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address, where he warned America and its economy could descend into being a conflict-driven nation. Over 60 years after his speech, we have become just that. A Brown University study found that since 2001, the U.S. has spent $5. 9 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia. For contrast, the 2023 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a paltry $49 billion.
America and its military-industrial complex–including the Pentagon, CIA, foreign military services, Homeland Security, nuclear program, and many other U.S. Defense tentacles–promises to spread democracy and keep the world safe. However, a far more common enemy than a national security incident is getting cancer from the sun, being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and dying in a car accident. Science has a great chance to fix almost anything, even the problems listed above, if it is given enough time and money for experimentation and research.
Hearts attacks, for example, could be nearly eliminated in the future by new technologies like bionic artificial hearts, 3D printed hearts, or stem cell injections. Each of these technologies has studies and trials ongoing. But not enough research is being done because it requires so much money to do, and private enterprise can only take on so much financial risk without government assistance. In fact, overcoming cardiovascular disease–the No. 1 killer in the world according to the World Health Organization–requires an all-out war against it, with government leading the way through incentives, grants, and collaboration.
I have personally experienced the devastating effects of cardiovascular disease. My father, Steven Gyurko, had four hearts attacks before cardiovascular issues ended his life. It’s not only the loss of a loved-one that is painful. The economic cost to America is also significant. Congress-founded nonprofit CDC Foundation reported that up to $1 billion a day in lost productivity and medical costs occur in America from stroke and heart disease. For many reasons, keeping people healthy should be the top priority of our nation.
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like the idea of a science-industrial complex, so why isn’t America spending more time trying to become one? The military-industrial complex, according to economists, is essential for the modern American economy because it has become so ingrained in our culture and lives. However, it turns out when you look into the future, it’s easy to imagine a healthy American economy that thrives on science and medical innovation–not bullets or warmongering. This is because as we enter the transhumanist age–where increasingly medtech, robots, geoengineering, and AI inundates our lives and healthspans–we’ll need more and more servicing of all these gadgets, medical enhancements, and green tech to fight climate change. New initiatives will take on America’s health care and science industries and help them grow dramatically.
America and the rest of the world are on the verge of a new era, where modern medicine and tech will dominate our daily lives. Politicians, both on the left and right–should consider diverting substantial military funding to science, medicine, and healthspan initiatives to hasten that development. Around the world, 95 percent of people have a health issue, and every day in the U.S. 7,974 Americans die.
Our health is the real battle that we are constantly fighting. Money should not be spent on military campaigns that America has planned or is currently engaged in. More U.S. tax dollars should instead be spent on its citizens in the homeland, creating science and technologies that will make us live longer, better, and with ever growing promise of what America can really do for its citizens.
Zoltan Istvan writes and speaks on transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and the future. He is the author of The Transhumanist Wager, and is the subject of the forthcoming biography by Dr. Ben Murnane and Changemakers Books titled, Transhuman Citizen: Zoltan Istvan’s Hunt for Immortality.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
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