The week of the 12th of October was busier than usual. The previous Thursday Tamsyn Burgmann from the Canadian Press interviewed me about biohacking and the implant I had done at From Now in 2014. We also talked more generally about the biohacking scene in Canada.
Here is the video from the From Now conference that started it all:
The article was published and there was a huge amount of buzz across Canada. In ‘Everyone Loves Biohacking’ I wanted to share some of the interviews, buzz, the comments from the public, and some of my perspectives.
Before we get into the buzz I need to give some shout outs to Derek Jacoby over at www.biospace.ca and Scott Pownall from The Open Science Network who were also interviewed (more info about what they are doing can be found at the end of this article).
Nikolas Badminton Interviewed About Biohacking on CTV News
Nikolas Badminton Interviewed About Biohacking on Global News
Nikolas Badminton Interviewed on 630CHED
Ryan Jesperson on 630CHED in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) interviewed me on a number of items relating to biohacking. The interview starts at the 19min 37sec mark.
The Fear of the Future
OK, with the buzz comes some criticism and general fear. Biohacking has that effect. Changing the born condition of our bodies generally has that effect.
Here are some of my favorite ‘critics’ and supporters and what they have to say.
Globe and Mail
Here are some of the comments that struck me:
“Personally, I don’t see the point of an implanted RFID chip. It might save me a few seconds of fiddling with my credit cards and passwords, but would otherwise not do much. On the other hand, I would love to have something that would let me emulate a mouse and keyboard using thought alone. As for the government mandating some sort of tracking, I really don’t see this happening. More likely commerce will become increasingly dependent on cyborg-like enhancements and if you don’t have them, you’ll be as irrelevant as the Amish are in today’s economy. If you’re worried about tyranny, the best way to oppose it is to be an active participant in democracy – not try to find some island where you and your buddies can hide from a Boogy man.”
I’m pretty sure the ‘Boogy Man’ doesn’t exist.
“Mutation is the greatest manipulator of human DNA. It takes thousands, if not millions of years, so just sit tight and wait.”
I’ll be honest. I don’t think we can wait. Then there was someone that was thinking quite deeply about this subject.
“Great buddy. Like we need to make it even easier for the government to track us. And given corporations reliance on big data and desire to market directly to us, do you really think your technological insertions will be limited to Alzheimer’s patients? But maybe Badminton is right and I am just “scared.” Why, no government (and especially not a government like the Conservative government!) would demand that everyone be chipped. They’d never tell us it was necessary for our own safety, or that if we weren’t doing anything wrong then we’d have nothing to fear. Never! Go look up the plot summary of M.T. Anderson’s “Feed” and then come back here and tell me this kind of technology is a good idea. Human Beings. Why are we so stupid?”
…and I replied:
“Thanks for joining the discussion. For clarity – the NFC chip is passive and cannot be tracked however every Canadian can be tracked if they carry around a smartphone. That’s more scary to me to be honest. Look to the positives and realize that intelligence services already know much more than can be transmitted by these devices.”
And Captain Obvious (I’m pretty sure that’s not their name) came back to me:
“Huh. Didn’t expect that, though perhaps I should have. Nikolas, this is nothing but a bad idea waiting to happen. The technology may be passive now, but it will clearly not stay that way. I’ve still got a choice about a smart phone, one which I exercise. There is absolutely no way that this technology will not come into widespread effect once it is reliable. Two or three terrorist attacks (false flags not necessary) will be all it takes. Perhaps they will start with those convicted of crimes, than merely those accused. Or it will just “modernize” finger-printing. I’m sorry, but you are being very naive if you think people with power will not misuse this technology. Some doors should never be opened. Never!”
I really appreciated this back and forth. Overall the comments were a little fractured with some concerns but also some good perspectives as well. Oh, I always want to open the doors.
The CBC ran the article (with 236 shares and 69 comments.)
Comments on the article were really not so kind:
“I won’t knock anybody that has their hobbies, interests, or is into stuff like this. But I do have a problem with the idea of “enhancing” the human body when it’s coming from a guy that looks like he’s 40 pounds overweight, never seen the inside of a gym, and would probably have heart failure if he tried to run two blocks. He probably has no idea the power you feel when you’re in awesome shape, the boost in your energy level, the strength of your immune system, sharper reflexes, sharper mind, did I mention libido… How’s that for “enhancement?” But no, go ahead, implant your little rice-shaped thing, sit on the couch and see how that works for ya.”
Wow. That’s a little uninformed. Well, let me clarify. I was overweight by about 40 lbs 6 years ago, that is true. I found out that I had PTSD and that lead to a poor diet, feelings of loneliness, over-consumption, and other bad habits. My first real foray into ‘biohacking’ was to have Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to reprogram how my brain processed thoughts and feelings. The goal of EMDR is to reduce the long-lasting effects of distressing memories by developing more adaptive coping mechanisms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements.
After 4 sessions I looked at the world very differently and my mode of living is 100% different. I now write and speak more and have produced some amazing conferences and events, including Cyborg Camp YVR, PRODUCT, From Now, Dark Futures, and Vancouver Futurists. These days I also cycle several times a week, walk everywhere, hike when I can, see a personal trainer, snowboard more, and take a number of supplements to help enhance my body.
Here are some of the supplements I take:
- Wild Salmon Oil (support cardiovascular health, helps reduce high blood pressure, and helps maintain healthy brain and nerve cell function.)
- 5-HTP – Helps raise serotonin levels in the brain. Also has a positive effect on sleep, mood, anxiety, appetite, and pain sensation.
- Milk Thistle – For liver health
- Maca – Enhance energy and stamina. It is also believed to increase the sexual desire and endurance.
- Glucosamine Sulphate – It is used by the body to produce a variety of other chemicals that are involved in building tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and the thick fluid that surrounds joints.
- Siberian Ginseng – This was traditionally used to prevent colds and flu and to increase energy, longevity, and vitality. It is widely used in Russia as an “adaptogen.” An adaptogen is a substance that is supposed to help the body better cope with either mental or physical stress.
- Gingko Bilboa – This is an anti-oxidant abilities with improvements of the platelet and nerve cell functions and blood flow to the nervous system and brain.
- Alpha Brain – One of the main ingredients is L-theanine that can increase brain dopamine and serotonin. L-theanine can also aid sleep quality and improved attention the next day. Be warned – it gives you crazy vivid dreams.
I’ll be honest. I stopped reading the comments after a while. These commenters were rude and, while I started by finding them funny, I ended feeling really quite upset. I was called ‘the beast’, overweight, a slave, an old man, Randy Quaid (what?), and someone said my socks and lamp was terrible. Sigh.
Some did mention my good friend Amal Graafstra from dangerousthings.com:
“I recall about 5-7? Maybe 10 years ago the story was a Seattle man who put a microchip in the web of his hand, more RFID I believe. It would allow him to log onto his laptop, unlock his VW and unlock his front door. Seems like a good idea for me :)”
Overall any discussion on biohacking is a good one. We managed to highlight possibilities and the interviews continue. It’s an exciting time and look out for more posts on biohacking here going forward.
Biospace is Canada’s first bio-tech community lab, based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
They’re membership driven, and anyone can join. Access to knowledge shouldn’t be limited to academia and all of the restrictions associated with it. If you like to tinker and learn more in the area of biology and its intersection with other technologies, this is the place for you.
Biospace offers classes and allows Makerspace members access to equipment for their own projects. Biospace borrows lab facilities from a local biotech startup, Biobit.ca, and so access hours and projects are at their discretion. The facilities are located at 2614 Bridge Street. Currently, Biospace can accommodate only biosafety risk group 1 projects as described in the Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines
Equipment available to members includes microscopes (both inspection and biological), pipettes, centrifuges, incubators and water baths, glassware and sterilization facilities, analytical balance, a PCR machine, a microplate reader, and other basic microbiology equipment. Personal safety equipment and disposable materials and reagents are included in classes, but will have to be individually negotiated for personal projects.
About Open Science Network
Other Biohacking Examples
I cover elements of biohacking in my weekly series – Top-5 Futures. See some of the posts here:
Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.