So What Is “BioHacking” Anyway?

Eveybody has the their own favourite “goto” BioHack that they’ve discovered and applied to their lives. Most don’t even know that they are “BioHacking”. That’s because the term hasn’t really hit the mainstream yet. But it will very soon.

To illustrate how it’s so new…yesterday my wife was curious about what I was doing. I’ve embarked on a few different odd projects over the years…all very interesting to me, but often on the fringes of the mainstream. And now I’m off again, starting the BCBioHacking Meetup

She has a thing about me being involved in “New Age” type stuff, as she feels a bit uneasy about “how far down the rabbit hole” I tend to go when I’m obsessed about some topic. She’s right…when I’m really engaged with something, I tend to delve deep into the subject, becoming somewhat of an expert on whatever it is.

Anyhow, I motioned to her to look at her wrist, because she was wearing the FitBit Charge that I had passed onto her. “There you go” I said, you’re already a “BioHacker”. “What do you mean” she said in a surprised voice…”Well, your wearing a bit of technology that tracks your steps, monitors your sleep, and keeps you motivated…it’s a biofeedback mechanism…so you’re a BioHacker!!!” I said with a bit of glee. As much as I wanted to relish the moment, she didn’t seem thrilled that I was calling her a “BioHacker”. “No I’m not…” she said hesitantly, pausing without knowing what to say next. Did I win her over? Probably not, but then again she loves competing with me on how many steps we’ve accumulated over the day on our FitBit’s. It’s  standing conversation every night to compare “steps” and see who’s won the round for the day (btw…she nearly always wins).

Now back to “BioHacking”. What does this term really mean?

Well…in a nutshell it’s the emerging set of practices that average people are adopting that help manage one’s own biology using a combination of medical, nutritional and electronic techniques.

For me it’s a culmination and intersection of a number of disciplines I’m passionate about that cut across a wide variety of topics related to human development and cognition and it’s intersection with new forms of technology.

This emerging and growing trend of non-institutional science and technology development is changing and shaping the community we live in. From my sister-in-law who operates Bailame Fitness, mapping her every run on myfitnesspal or the Nike app and then posting to her Facebook page, to my other sister-in-law operating BunnyButt Yoga that focuses on sharing her passion for yoga…to people coming together at health fairs to discover the latest and greatest trends in how to maintain their health or parent their kids.

We are all exposed to various types of knowledge that forces us to be lifelong learners. Maybe it’s because our healthcare system is so broken, with medical doctors so disturbingly disconnected from their patients lives…but we are all trying to explore everything and anything that will help us “radiate limitless energy, focus, health and flow in everything we do” (as my twitter bio states).

Maybe it’s the term “Hacker” that gets people a bit upset. It has some negative connotations to those who think it only applies to illicit activities. But, technically the term “BioHacker” is using the “Hacker” part from its original sense of “taking things apart and putting them back together in a new, better way“. Perhaps that’s just how human being’s have been able to survive for so long without going extinct. Aren’t we all just BioHackers of our lives?

“BioHacking” is therefore just an extension of this ethos through using rational and systematic synthesis of complex, biological systems. We just focus the analytical lens on ourselves as Human Beings. There are some general ethics associated with this practice too…namely that there is freedom of access, freedom of information, and improvement to quality of life.

Some think that the “BioHacking” movement is only about nootropics (such as Modafinil) and the use of non-toxic substances for improving cognitive functioning. However it can also include cybernetic devices (like the FitBit) for recording biometric data, or perhaps even a MindWave Neurosky or Emotiv EPOC device. Both are fairly affordable and able to help train the brain to truly reduce stress or improve concentration. Even things like the HRV Hearthmath devices and applications are being used by top athletes and CEO’s like Dave Asprey to get a competitive edge.

The development of this community of like-minded people cuts across a large number of disciplines, as most of are eager to share (in an open-source way) all manner of tips with our friends, family, co-workers and others about how to lower costs, be entertained, improve our health, extend our lives, and educate ourselves.

Some of the new methods we eagerly embrace are ways to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs. These can include food consumed, weather and quality of surrounding air, states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical).

Such self-monitoring and self-sensing, which combines wearable sensors (EEG, ECG, video, etc.) and wearable computing, is also known as “LifeLogging”. Other names for using self-tracking data to improve daily functioning are “Self-Tracking”, “Auto-Analytics”, “Body Hacking”, “Self-Quantifying”, “Self-Surveillance”, and “Personal Informatics”.

In short, “BioHacking” relies on improving self-knowledge through self-tracking with technology. This use ongoing methods for self-advancement has allowed individuals to quantify biometrics that they never knew existed, as well as make data collection cheaper and more convenient. One can easily track insulin and cortisol levels, sequence DNA, and see what microbial cells inhabit one’s body.

One recent thing I did was have my DNA examined at 23andme.com. What an eye opening experience that was, and there’s even a free app tracking your results…woohoo!

Now where was I?

Ah, yes! Whether it’s relying on 3 cups of coffee in the morning, or simply getting a good nights rest before a big day, we all use various neurohacking and biohacking tools and methods to get ahead in life. Some are just habits we copy from other “BioHackers” (eg. knowledgeable human beings) who suggest things to us, like “go gluten free“, or perhaps their on some kind of “juicing” frenzy, or a new MLM protein-shake “delivered right to your door” program that seems to work fine for a while.

Whatever the case, we all have bits and pieces of a fabric of knowledge that makes up what “BioHacking” is all about. We’re all searching for ways to better our mood, get six pack abs, or simply have that laser-like focus and concentration we admire in films like “Limitless” and “Lucy“.

Btw…that “Limitless” movie is definitely worth watching.

So what are the top 3 “BioHacks” that every person should at least try are?

Well…that will be the topic of my next post…so stay tuned and keep checking back here!!!

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About bcbiohacking

Avid lifelong learner, willing to explore everything and anything that will help me radiate limitless energy, focus, health and flow in everything I do.
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