Probably you’ve heard about hacking smartphones, emails, cards, computers. Even hacking elections. But what about hacking your body? What?! This concept is called biohacking and it’s really all about self-improvement. The possibilities are endless, all around the idea that we can change our bodies and our brains using technology. Maybe you’ve read about a former NASA employee injecting himself with DNA using gene-editing technology CRISPR. Maybe you’ve heard of some folks engaging in “dopamine fasting” or you have a colleague who’s had a chip implanted in his hand. These are all types of biohacking also known as DIY biology. It’s a difficult term to explain because it involves a huge range of activities, from performing science experiments to pumping a younger person’s blood into veins in the hope that it’ll fight old age. (is a real thing, and it’s called a young blood transfusion).

Some biohackers have science PhDs; others are complete amateurs, but those who have more notoriety are the ones who experiment on their own bodies with the hope of boosting their physical and cognitive performance. The more data you have on your body’s mechanical functions, the more you can be optimized. Yeah! Creepy! But it’s true. These ones are called grinders or transhumanists. They use implants to augment their lives. The implants allow them to do everything from opening doors to monitoring their glucose levels subcutaneously. Even for some kinds of track sports such as the 100-meter sprint, athletes who run on carbon-fiber blades are able to outperform those who run on natural legs. Also failing organs would be replaced soon by longer-lasting high-tech versions just as carbon-fiber blades could replace the flesh, blood, and bone of natural limbs. Some might consider this unethical. For others will be of enormous benefit, but its use still raises all sorts of issues. In the near future, we can also expect the arrival of contact lenses that can take pictures or video, universal language translator earbuds that allow us to communicate anywhere in the world, and exosuits that increase physical strength. They will also lead to implications around which job opportunities are available to those with and without augmented abilities. Also driving a car while writing emails or playing video games while being physically paralyzed is a future not-too-far-off.

But the most powerful is the implantable brain-machine interface. (BMI) These devices will dramatically alter the ways in which we communicate with each other. BMI is a tiny wire very close to one of the brain neurons, with whom you can record the electrical activity it generates and send it to a computer. Record enough of these signals from the right area of the brain and it becomes possible to control computers, robots, or anything else you might want, simply by thinking about moving. But in your brain like in mine, microscopic cells called neurons are sending signals back and forth to each other all the time. Everything we think, do, and feel as interact with the world around us is the result of the activity of these 80 billion or so neurons. Damn difficult to record all of these neurons and then to make them do wherever we need. In a few labs around the world, scientists have been implanting these devices into the brains of people who have lost the ability to control their arms or hands for over a decade. The results were promising but Brain-to-brain communication? Enhanced memory? still closed. Current BMI’s are relatively slow and make mistakes once in a while (For instance, the computer thinks you imagined left-hand movement, while in fact, you imagined right-hand movement). These devices may be portrayed as being able to “mind read” and “decode thoughts” or “stoking fears” that they will unearth innermost secrets. But we didn’t make our brains and we still don’t really know very well how they work. Much less how to “invade” them safely and successfully. (Facebook announced in 2017 it wanted to create a wearable device that would allow typing from the brain at 100 words per minute instead of Neuralink who is striving for 40 words per minute — which is around our average typing speed.) Historically, hardware limitations have caused them to come into contact with more than one region of the brain or produce interfering scar tissue. Pulses from the visual center aren’t like those produced when formulating speech, and it’s sometimes difficult to identify signals’ origination points. All of the challenges haven’t discouraged Facebook, Synchron, Neuralink, Paradromics, Kernel, Ctrl-labs, and others from chasing after a brain-computer interface…and for a new brave world. The development of such a Human Brain Cloud Interface B/CI would enable people to directly access information from the Internet, store their learnings on the cloud, and work together with other connected brains artificial or human. It will be a medium of strange connections past and future. The technologies are in scientific research called “neuralnanorobotics”

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Biohacking the brain

Probably you’ve heard about hacking smartphones, emails, cards, computers. Even hacking elections. But what about hacking your body? What?! This concept is called biohacking and it’s really all about self-improvement. The possibilities are endless, all around [...]

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