What is biohacking?
As biotechnologies become cheaper and more accessible, “biohackers” across the world have begun to explore the world of biology from the comforts of their homes. As their name indicates, biohackers apply what’s called a “hacker ethic” to biology — they believe in shared, democratic access to information and technology and in manipulating biological systems, mainly through cell stems, to improve the quality of human life. In fact, they believe that the integration of technology and biology is the new frontier for the development of the human species. Biohacking encompasses a broad spectrum of physiological innovations; from genetic manipulation to magnetic implants while working in all sorts of settings- from personal kitchens to rentable labs.
Biohackers who search for ways to enhance the human body with the aid of technology, machines, and implants are called “body hackers” or “grinders”. For example, with just a scalpel and some tools, grinders can manufacture the “ability” to detect electromagnetic fields by placing small magnets near sensitive nerves in the fingertips. To the outside world, these hackers seem like fanatics or in simpler words, crazy men who love to implant anything they can find into the skin.
Lepht Anonym, a biohacker from the United Kingdom, is one of these “renegades.” Her series of YouTube videos and essays have helped her to rise as an eminent leader in the biohacking movement. She proved, for example, that it was possible to implant certain chips and magnets into the human body simply with a scalpel and some tweezers, sans anaesthetic, using herself as a guinea pig. “I’m an idiot, but I’m an idiot working in the name of progress,” she explains. But advancement can come at a cost — Anonym has recently written on her blog about hearing phantom sounds, a possible long term side effect of her biohacking.
Still, these grinders adhere to trans-humanist philosophies and see themselves as positive forces working towards human development. Warwick aims to bring about brain-to-brain communication in his lifetime and advance the study of the mind; other biohackers go further, arguing that our bodies are merely aging sacks holding us back from a future free of physical restrictions.
Biohacking has begun to emerge from its subterranean subculture. Today, enthusiasts in biotechnology and synthetic biology can find a wide range of resources on the web, from forums to share and discuss platforms, to groups like DIYbio- a network of communities for DIY biologists. Some companies have introduced affordable DIY genomics kits, allowing enthusiasts to sequence genes at home. Genome tests are available to make gene hacking easier.
Biohackers feel and have a view that biohacking is equivalent to taking the pain for the people who are going to come after them. But, they feel it as a pleasure and pays for it, so that sometime in the future, people will truly recognise it for what it really is and it would be socially acceptable later on.