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July 16, 2017

Biohacking and Transhumanism at DEFCON 25


Our bodies are wonderful biological machines. Sadly, they’re also flawed. Issues like neurodegenerative diseases and aging are difficult to ignore. The reality is that we’ve yet to become the best versions of ourselves through evolution. Biohacking is all about improving our bodies beyond what evolution offers. In some cases, it involves tweaking our diet and actively measuring the results of our efforts, whereas in others it involves using prosthetics to replace missing limbs or even computer/electronic systems imbedded into our bodies. Rooted in transhumanism, biohacking is all about helping humans reach their full potential and preserving the most valuable asset on the planet: the human brain and the memories within. While we’re far from having the technology to upload or conscientiousness and achieve immortality, humanity is taking small steps in that direction.

While there are many definitions, transhumanism is simply a philosophy focused on improving our biological functions through the use of technology. Transhumanism aims to reach certain technological advancements that will inevitably defeat death itself, and it’s based on the belief that one day we can separate our consciousness from our biological bodies and download it as digital information that can be uploaded into cyborg-like bodies that will never die. This is rather a simplistic explanation of the transhumanist philosophy, but I believe it’s a good start for those who want to understand its core principles. While it might sound like your favorite sci-fi television/streaming series, technological advancements are now made at a such a rapid pace that we can only wonder how long we have left until we can really say that we can improve our body functions trough implants or even robot-like parts. Biohacking is just the next step in learning more about our bodies and how to improve their performance. There are many approaches to biohacking, from using nootropics to improve brain performance to steroids to increase body strength.

Biohacking is already happening! Before you jump to conclusions about how radical the biohacking movement is, you should know that you probably use several biohacks yourself. Anything that you put in your body and that improves your performance can be considered a biohack. You can’t start your day without the energy coffee gives you? Caffeine is your biohack of choice. Biohacking doesn’t have to be a radical treatment. It could be something more subtle, such as creatine for muscles or nootropics for an improved brain performance. Any substance that you use to increase your body’s performance can fall into the biohacking category. But biohacking sometimes comes with a twist. It empowers regular people who don’t have access to studies in medicine and engineering to study their own bodies and experiment with them. For instance, some biohackers try to improve their body by adding small magnets near their fingertips in order to “feel” magnetic fields. This type of improvement of the senses helps make us aware of magnetic fields that otherwise can’t be observed by our senses.

Biohacking majority impacts the health industry too. From nootropics to tracking down changes inside your body after adopting a new diet or taking a new supplement, biohacking is empowering people all over the world to find out more about their bodies and experiment with them. For example, you now have the opportunity to find out to what genetic diseases you’re predisposed to, what genetic diseases you’re currently suffering from, what your ancestry is, and many other useful pieces of information, just by mailing in your saliva in a tube.

The company I’ve brought up time after time is 23andme, a service that analyzes your DNA and delivers the results of 240 tests. These results let you truly understand one’s self. You can easily find out if you’re predisposed to ailments such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and much, much more. There are also many websites that help you keep a record of your medical history as well as websites that can help you get an idea what supplements should you use based on your height, weight, gender, and current dietary intake.

What’s so revolutionary about all this? For the first time ever, anyone can take these tests in a very comfort of their own home, at a very affordable price. The company can even “guess” your hair color and eye color. But biohacking doesn’t end there. Hormonal treatments for aging and prosthetics for the disabled can help us both live longer and improve the quality of our lives. Many people who are interested in biohacking just get regular tests. They measure the impact of certain supplements, and they generally try to improve their health some like our friend’s at DEFCON’s Biohacking village go way beyond the fringe with body modifications.

These friends at DEFCON’s Biohacking Village take body modifications one step further, many members of these biohacking communities are looking forward to incorporating new technology in their bodies each year. Magnets that can help user detect magnetic fields, and LED’s have the potential to make life even easier. Optimists say that in a few years the LED’s inside one’s body will allow you to communicate with your smartphone, giving commands. For example, you’ll have the ability to open your car door with LED’s. Nanotechnology is also on biohackers’ minds when it comes to body modifications. What if we could perform “surgeries” from the inside of the body? What if nanobots can help us detect cancer cells in early stages? What if these nanobots constantly examine our health state and report data to our laptops or smartphones? As technology advances, biohackers hope that they will accomplish the ultimate transhumanist dream: merging the human body with machines that not only enhance its capabilities but also transfer the human conscience in digital form to an undying body.

We’re living in a time where we can no longer deny their weakness or ignore death. But instead of giving up, we fight using technology. The ultimate goal of transhumanism is to defeat our biggest enemy: the flawed human body. While it’s undoubtedly a biological masterpiece, it has many shortcomings as well. Biohacking is not just about incorporating technology in our bodies. How far you wish to take it also depends on your goals and how you want to experience life. Some biohackers are more concerned about their mental performance, while others try to fight or prevent certain diseases. Biohacking is not limited to a small segment of people. It comes in many forms. However, the pursuit is all about changing your body and your human experience for the better, and always aiming to become a better human.

Come check us out at DEFCON’s Biohacking Village DC25

~Michael Goetzman