Posted by Flux on 

28 September 2018

What’s trending now?
Biohacking – or DIY biological enhancement – is gaining popularity around the world. Biohackers use technology to modify their own bodies for aesthetic and/or functional reasons.

Why is it important?
The biohackers’ movement aims to give people the power to design their own biological destiny through access to the latest biological, genetic and technological developments science has to offer.

Biohackers believe that genetic information and biological enhancements should be democratic and ‘open source’ so that individuals can evolve (organically or inorganically) according to their own intelligent design. They encourage the democratic, DIY technological development of the human race.

Most biohackers are self-taught and learn by practising on their own bodies.

Biohacks range from the absurd (such as implanting flashing lights into one’s hands for fun) to the ingenious (DIY devices which enable people to “see” sounds or “hear” colours).

Sub tribes of the biohacker movement include:

  • Bio-Punks: An anarchist subculture that uses cyborg-style body modifications, such as implanted illuminated jewellery or working devices for aesthetic or functional reasons.
  • Grinders: An anarchist DIY bodyhacker subsect of Bio-Punks who implant functional cybernetic technology into their own bodies to become living cyborgs. Surgically implanted DIY technological devices are known as “wetware” and include implanting RFID microchips (radio frequency identification) in hands and inserting magnets into fingertips.
  • Do-it-yourself biologists:  A biotechnological social movement in which individuals study and pratice biology and gene therepy on themselves using the same methods as formal research institutions.
  • Nutrigeomicists: Individauls who use “Nutrigenomics” – that is food, suplements and controlled nutrition – to “hack” their biology to improve their health and longevity.
  • Open-Source Transhumanists: Transhumanists believe in extending human life, health and happiness with the ultimate goal of ending suffering and achieving immortality. Open-source transhumanists believe that individuals should have access to technology such as genetic engineering, cyborg modifications and brain-neural interfaces that can aid transhumanist goals.

What’s the Butterfly effect?
Elon Musk has proposed that in the future, humans will need to get computer chips implanted into their brains to compete with artificial intelligence. He’s already invested in a venture called Neuralink to do exactly this.

At the same time, CRISPR gene editing technology means that designer babies are now a reality.

As biological and cyborg technology advance at exponential rates, individuals who do not have access to these technologies could find themselves left behind the super-human cyborgs who can afford to enhance themselves and their offspring.

Biohackers believe that the democratisation of technology, through DIY learning, experimenting and the sharing of knowledge is the best way to avoid digital and genetic inequality.

The Pioneers
In August 2018, Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen posted pictures of themselves sporting what appeared to be implanted, electronic bio-punk style “jewellery” on their respective social media feeds. The posts turned out to be fake news – a publicity stunt for an art project called A.Human which explores the future potential of biological implants as body art. Fake news or not, the campaign indicates that the bio-punk aesthetic is well on its way to becoming mainstream.

Above:See the “implants”

On the more serious side of the biohacker movement, Jasmine Idun Isdrake is a Swedish game designer, public speaker and self-described cyborg activist. She has set up a laboratory in Sweden where artists, scientists and technologists can share ideas and experiment together with aesthetic and functional biohacking projects. Jasmine’s own body hacks include devices that let her play music with her hands, an implant that counts down the number of beats her heart has left and a gadget that helps her regulate her neurodiversity  issues when in public. Jasmine is outspoken about the fact that individuals should have access to biohacking technology so that in future the intelligent design of individuals – and the human race in general – is not left to big corporations and governments.

Global Hotspots
Epicenter , a co-working space that focuses on incubating and accelerating technological start-ups in Sweden, leads the global biohacking movement. Epicenter made headlines when it offered tenants RFID microchips to access the office building’s security and vending machines.

Above: Swedish company implants employees with microchips

The Swedish higher education system actively encourages students to pick and choose from a wide range of academic courses – from technology to the arts – to make up their degree credits. The result is an empowered younger generation equipped with highly-relevant hybrid skill sets. It is no wonder that Sweden is a fertile breeding ground for the growing biohacker culture to develop in.

By Bronwyn Williams

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Image credit: BBC News
Video credit: ET Canada  AND ABC News

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