Previously thought to be the domain of science fiction, biohacking, or using tech to improve the human body in various ways, is quickly becoming a reality. There are cults of diehard grinders, or people who implant tech in their bodies, growing by the day. With the advent of smart technology and the expanse of the transhumanism movement, biohacking is becoming more prevalent. But the question remains. Will biohacking ever become more mainstream?
What Biohacking Is
In a sense, biohacking is viewing the human body like a hacker would consider the human body. What’s working? What isn’t? What how could our bodies work more efficiently? And like computer hackers, biohackers form communities. They crowd source solutions.
Typically, when we talk about biohacking as a practice, we might be referring to someone who implants a microchip in their hand in order to operate RFID locks. But biohacking is broader than that. Biohackers might consume nootropics, or cognitive enhancers, to improve their cognitive function and increase creativity. Wearables, to some extent, can even be considered biohacking. After all, if you’re someone who wears a Fitbit, you’re monitoring your body’s functions and trying to use your Fitbit to better yourself.
In essence, biohacking is moving beyond basic biology.
Don’t We Already Biohack?
If we’re speaking from the point of view that biohacking is meant to help one move beyond basic biology, we can easily say that biohacking is already commonly practiced by millions of people all around the world.
Your grandfather, for instance, may walk around with an artificial hip. A woman might obtain an IUD to monitor and control her reproductive health. We all take vitamins and drink coffee. Some of us take caffeine pills or other drugs.
The real question might not be whether people are comfortable modifying their body in an attempt to improve oneself but whether people can be convinced to modify their body for reasons that might not be considered medically necessary.
After all, take your grandfather. He may need an artificial hip in order to live a healthy, normal life but he might not necessarily need a microchip injected underneath his skin.
In a world where medical procedures such as plastic surgery are often looked down when not conducted for medical necessity, questioning the ethics of biohacking is something everyone’s been wondering for some time. Is it ethical to alter your DNA to help prevent your children from inheriting genetic disorders? Or what about replacing body parts with more technically advanced alternatives?
In the United States, about twenty percent of people take psychiatric medication. And yet at the same time, despite how common psychiatric medication is in the United States, people who take psychiatric medication often find that their medication use, and their mental illnesses that are managed through psychiatric medication, is stigmatized by other Americans. And psychiatric medication is taken to stabilize and manage medical conditions. It doesn’t take a genius to see how someone who takes nootropics or who seeks implants might find themselves the subjects of torment and stigmatization by people who believe that biology is destiny.
In a sense, biohacking is already mainstream in some regards, at least if you include IUDs, joint replacement, and mind-altering substances. It’s the mentality that the human body can be improved for reasons beyond extreme medical need that would need to carry over into the mainstream.
Is the body sacred? Can people move beyond basic biology? It’s questions like these that we’ll need to consider in the coming years. The transhumanist movement and biohacking handily come hand in hand. It’s only a question of whether society, beyond the fringes of it, will come to embrace both.
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