WHAT IS BIOHACKING?
We can define biohacking as the practice of using technology and science to improve ourselves and our environment with a non-traditional approach.
TYPES OF BIOHACKING
We can consider different types depending on the procedures carried out, and the objectives pursued.
- Nutrigenomics: it focuses on nutrition (based on our genetics) and how the different nutrients affect our health and behaviour.
- DIY Biology: based on scientific knowledge that can be applied and experimented out of the labs where it originated.
- Grinder: it aims to “hack” our different body parts via devices or chemicals to become cyborg-like individuals.
- Quantified Self (lifelogging): data collection to self-track and improve physical, mental and emotional performance.
- Self-Experimentation (medical): we can define it as scientific experimentation performed by the individuals on themselves.
WHEN DID BIOHACKING START?
The history of biohacking is relatively recent. The first groups started around 1988. It became increasingly popular in the makers and programmers’ communities by 2005, thanks to organisations like SuperHappyDevHouse.
Today, it has become a trending although controversial subject with as many supporters as detractors.
BIOHACKING: TOOLS AND EXAMPLES
Not everyone is familiar with the scene. Here are some practical examples of what’s possible to achieve by using different technologies and tools.
- Crispr (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats): this revolutionary technology allows to edit genes by using specialised proteins. Some of its practical uses are related to agriculture, health and industry.
- Nootropics: the use of compounds and supplements to improve memory and cognition (choline bitartrate, huperzine A and hordenine are some of the popular substances).
- Implants: the grinder community is exploring the man/woman – machine concept by using implantable biohacks.
This is Neil Harbisson “The man who hears colour”. He is completely colour blind.The cam attached to his head allows him to translate the sound he hears when he hears colour. He’s taking notes on my various colours and will send the sound via email. Incredible! @moonribas pic.twitter.com/rUhYgJmzTr
— lemn sissay MBE (@lemnsissay) 8 de marzo de 2019
THE PROBLEMS WITH BIOHACKING
When we think of biohacking, there is one question that arises: is it ethical?
It’s quite difficult to decide where to draw the line as the potential of these new systems increases, offering infinite possibilities (and challenges): think of cure of diseases, but also biological weapons and designer babies.
Indeed, there are some real risks involved in biohacking. Controversy is also present as some techniques and products are considered non-scientific and baseless.
TOP BLOGS, WEBSITES AND RESOURCES
For the interested in the subject, the internet has plenty of information on the various forms of biohacking.
- Biocurious: a community of scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs that believe in innovative biology.
- Bulletproof Blog: diet, healthy habits and nootropics for beginners and advanced users.
- Berkeley Bio Labs: a large biotech community that aims to provide support to scientists and entrepreneurs.
- Biohack Yourself: new technologies and self-experimentation come together.
- DIY Bio: a vibrant community of DIY biologists established in 2008.
- HiveBio: a non-profit organisation that focuses on providing a safe and affordable space for experimentation
- GrindHouse Wetware: an opensource biotechnology startup based in Pennsylvania, that became famous thanks to the implantable device Circadia.