Biohacking is biological experimentation, such as gene editing or the use of drugs or implants done to improve the qualities or capabilities of living organisms especially by individuals and groups working outside a traditional medical or scientific research environment.
Pioneered by the Silicon Valley crowd, middle-aged tech moguls are presently pouring billions into the quest for eternal life. Biohacking has a strong DIY ethos and many hackers happily using themselves as guinea pigs. They might combine a drug used to treat Narcolepsy with prolonged doses of morning sunlight and a carnivore diet to determine if the combination makes them smarter or provides additional youthful energy.
Microdosing on drugs such as LSD is a popular biohack, with many adherents citing improved focus and enhanced creative output on days when they imbibe. Other hacks involve stem cell technology, replacement of human blood from a younger and more healthy donor, and experimenting with a host of prescription drugs. The film Limitless, wherein Bradley Cooper’s character stumbles on a substance (based loosely on Modafinil or Provigil) that gives him superhuman cognitive abilities, is the biohacker’s celluloid bible.
Dave Asprey, founder of the company Bulletproof and proud Modafinil user is the official founder of biohacking. He has sought to build a business empire pushing human capabilities to their limit. Bulletproof retails a range of food and drinks from coffee beans, MCT coconut oil, collagen-based snacks, and all kinds of brain-fuelling supplements and potions.
Asprey’s top 5 low cost biohacks are:
- Cold showers, especially to the forehead – thought to be inflammation-fighting and character building
- Limiting blue light exposure during the day – Asprey recommends tinted glasses designed to protect the eyes and brain from harmful and fatiguing light sources
- Intermittent fasting – now a common mainstream practice with proven benefits including weight loss, blood sugar level management, and improved brain performance
- Good sleep – Asprey recommends sleeping in a completely dark room in a tilted bed, with the head 6 inches higher than the feet so the brain can more effectively clean itself of accumulated toxins
- Gratitude – writing a list of reasons to be grateful before sleeping is thought to produce a host of health and outlook benefits
A cynic might view biohacking as the epitome of narcissism – a generation of rich, self-obsessed geeks chasing the illusion of eternal youth. There is nothing overtly altruistic about their motives. They are not trying to cure Malaria or Alzheimers. Or perhaps history will be kinder and treat them as visionaries, who threw off the constraints of conventional medicine to prolong human life and enhance the health and wellbeing of billions.