Since the early days, biohackers split into two ideologies.
The “soft” and “hard”.
Soft biohacking consists of risk-averse health optimizers augmenting the body’s natural abilities.
Hard biohackers love risk, outfitting their bodies (and even brains) with the latest technologies.
There’s some overlap.
Mainstream news sources have long criticized biohacking as “dangerous” and “harmful to society”.
Yet through n=1 self-experiments, biohackers usher in rapid advancements.
Some produce miraculous results, while others cause massive destruction.
Most of the best biohacks are safe, effective, and free. In this article, we’ll explore some of the biggest and most dangerous biohacking mistakes pervasive throughout the community.
Transhumanists are a group that believes our future will look like a cross between modern humans and the latest technology. Transhumanists break down humans into systems and parts, living by the creed that our survival and proliferation depend on it. Life becomes a biological playground for technologists and scientists to modify as they see fit. Without regard for the consequences.
To this group, robots, powered by the consciousness we upload into the cloud, will save the day. Therefore, we should create a “transhumanist bill of rights” that grants “all forms of consciousness” inalienable rights.
Transhumanists reduce humans to nothing but cheap and abundant elements. Easily created, maintained, and replaced. They believe that soon enough a molecule will cure aging.
“Transhumanists are the least conscious people trying to hard code consciousness” — Unknown
The dark side, however, is the long-term consequences. Ironically, many of these modern “technologies” cause worse side effects than what they treat or improve. Prioritizing safety research is deemed to slow technological innovation, and thus criticized. This may have dire consequences for the fate of humanity and other life forms.
Some of the rarely discussed major potential pitfalls of transhumanism include:
- Who owns your data
- The device maker goes out of business (no support)
- Materials used for the implant (and biofilms)
- Non-native EMFs
- Advertisements injected directly into your visual field
- Hacking potential
That last one is especially frightening. Imagine if your eyes got hacked. Similar to what currently happens with pacemakers and other medical implants. That attacker could install malware. Or spyware. Or worse.
Instead, what we need is Peak Humanism.
CRISPR is an implementation of transhumanism that allows technicians to modify the genetic code (the operating system) of anything alive. It has been around for years but only started making waves when China birthed the first genetically modified baby.
This technology has many flaws. First, it modifies genes. Life doesn’t have a one-to-one response between genes and outcomes. At the same time, scientific understanding of genetics evolves rapidly.
Secondly, editing genes causes unintended downstream mutations. Insertions and deletions are not predicted by the algorithm.
Third, what about the interaction between genetics and epigenetics? We know that environment and lifestyle activate and deactivate the expression of genes. How that works post-CRISPR remains a mystery.
Third, the long-term consequences are completely unknown. Not just to the recipient, but to others they interact with. What happens when they pass these genetics on to their offspring?
CRISPR ignores the real complexity of the genome.
Humans, including Americans, spend the vast majority of our lives indoors. By some estimates, up to 90 percent.
Indoor environments do two important things.
Isolating us from beneficial sunlight, terpenes, flavonoids, microbes, and other healthy biomolecules found in nature. While also exposing us to higher concentrations of pathogens, dirty electricity, synthetic chemicals, and dangerous contaminants.
Air quality perfectly exemplifies this…
Indoor air is up to 7-fold more polluted than outdoor air.
Even in cities like New York City.
Hanging out indoors also promotes sedentary living, social isolation, and behaviors associated with poor health.
You know that health authorities have lied to us across subjects.
Take the current Food Pyramid, for example. The recommended Standard American Diet closely matches what researchers feed mice to fatten them.
Along those lines, the FDA allows a staggering list of dangerous chemicals into our food supply.
Modern technologies amplify the voices of well-meaning and often knowledgeable health experts.
Many factors can bias their beliefs:
- Investment (financial, social, ethical)
- Credentials and schooling
- Dated research
- Power and control
- Complete unawareness
So much so that we outsource our critical thinking to them. We trust them, even when their ideas contradict real-world experience.
Recognizing the immense difference between individuals (bioindividuality), the effective biohacker treats every idea with skepticism.
Where safe, testing concepts before blindly trusting and implementing them into everyday living. If it works for you, great. If not, dig into more research to learn why.
We all know the fundamental pillars of optimal health.
Yet 90% of the time, the highest impact biohacks address one or more of the fundamentals.
Things like nutrition, sleep, recovery, stress management, movement, light exposure, and breathing have pleiotropic full-body benefits.
Understandably, finding that magic bullet is much more appealing.
So far, however, few magic bullets exist. Even when they do, the benefits are in a much narrower spectrum.
With the entirety of PubMed at our fingertips, we’ve never had more access to high-quality research.
At the same time, it’s never been easier to cherry-pick studies to support just about anything. Or poke 100 holes in that which conflicts with our ideology or lifestyle.
Even a single published and peer-reviewed study has numerous flaws. That said, the wise biohacker also seeks the truth (even if it’s only a kernel) in it.
By reading and understanding trending science, you not only stay informed but also avoid common pitfalls.
Reductionalism is a philosophical approach that attempts to explain complex phenomena by breaking them down into simpler components. Certain fields like math and physics require this methodology.
However, reductionism completely fails to capture the emergent properties of complex systems (like human biology). Leading to incomplete or fatally flawed understandings of the real world.
Plus,The sum of the parts may not always equal the whole Click To Tweet
Especially in living systems. Causality is rarely mechanistic or linear. Rather, it’s usually systemic. It depends on context and a far more complex relationship between parts.
Over-reliance on mechanistic reductionism provides a false sense of confidence. It also sets the stage for future rage when science discovers previously missed side effects, dangers, and consequences.
That’s why all the most effective, personalized, precision, prevention-based medical systems attempted a more holistic approach to health.
Studies > Experience
Along the same vein, many biohackers put research ahead of their own lived experience.
Neglecting the fact that very few peer-reviewed published research accurately pertains to them and their lifestyle.
Studies provide crucial insight into safety, dosage, and general efficacy. But they’ll never substitute for your actual real-life experience.
For example, I’ve heard people mention that they began taking a substance and had a serious side effect. When they combed the literature, they couldn’t find research linking the substance to that side effect.
Yet each time they removed it, the side effect vanished. And upon reintroduction, it returned. Without (knowably) changing anything.
Despite all that, they continued to take the substance.
Sadly, biohackers often trust data and ignore the consequences of implementation.
The premise of magic-like therapies has captured scientists and media headlines for time immemorial.
Sensationalist examples include:
- “Exercise in a pill”
- Fasting mimetics to literally eat your cake and have it too
- Effortless weight loss
- Limitless-like smart drugs
- The one diet to rule them all
- Hacks to reverse biological aging
- Recreational drugs that also make you healthier
Every time scientists discover something new, media tabloids run wild. Promising that “this is it”. Perhaps we don’t need to sleep, move, think, eat clean, de-stress, work, etc anymore.
Some biohackers use this dangerous thinking as justification to skimp on the foundational pillars of health, wellness, and performance.
Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of examples. Not once has the magic bullet lived up to the initial hype.
Among the many weird biohacks, I’ve never understood the widespread fear of light.
Experts and scientists often peg light near the other core fundamental of health. It’s essential for thousands of biochemical processes throughout the body. And light sends strong circadian cues.
Biohackers often fear two kinds of light:
- Blue light
- Natural sunlight
Blue light has become wrongly demonized. In high doses and at the wrong time, it disrupts sleep and can negatively impact hormones.
During the first half of the time, however, blue light signals daytime and strengthens the healthy cortisol rhythm. It has a plethora of benefits.
Obsession with red light has some biohackers blocking blue light in the morning too, which is counterproductive.
Similarly, a large faction of biohackers avoid natural sunlight at all costs. A very dangerous mistake. Full-spectrum sunlight provides innumerable benefits. Well beyond just increasing vitamin D levels (which it does better as UV light “activates” vitamin D).
There’s also a stronger correlation between indoor desk workers and skin cancer and diseases [R, R]. Studies that associate sunlight with dangers either are confounded with major flaws (farmers also get exposed to extreme levels of carcinogenic chemicals) or the participants spend most of the day in the sun.
The rational approach to sunlight is to gradually build up your exposure and go during the right times. Spend lots of time outside in the morning and evening, and a little during the afternoon.
Remember, even UV light has many functions.
As medicine grows, so does the interest in potential therapeutics.
Developing new pharmaceuticals takes tremendous time, effort, and finances. And drug development usually fails.
Some biohackers and researchers have opted for another approach.
Based on the mechanisms of action that we already understand, they investigate novel applications for existing drugs. To use them “off-label”.
Leading to the popularization of these drugs now for longevity purposes:
- Metformin — a drug originally used by diabetics to control blood sugar
- Rapamycin — immunosuppressive drug originally used for organ transplantation
- Dastanib — originally a chemotherapy medication
You can find countless other examples too.
The main issue with this is that we still don’t fully understand all the mechanisms behind how the drugs work. And since the FDA never approved them for these “off-label” purposes, we have no clue about their long-term safety or efficacy.
Extreme Temperature Exposure
In many ways, 2023 was the year of the ice bath.
For whatever reason, the ancient practices of extreme cold exposure recently became a hot health and wellness trend. “Cold plunging” is now a household name—and activity.
And it has become a pseudo-blanket health optimization recommendation. Regardless of timing, stress, biochemistry, stress (allostatic load), or any of the myriad factors that determine whether it’ll improve or detract from your health.
In the right doses, at the right time, and for the right person, the ice bath can be a valuable tool. But it can also dramatically worsen the health of others.
Same thing (albeit to a lesser extent) for extreme heat exposure via heavy sauna usage.
Extreme temperature exposure is a not one-size-fits-all therapy. They require some discernment based on health status. and other factors.
Fasting is a powerful stressor.
Now, this does counteract and balance out the omnipresent caloric surplus that floods our biology. As explained in the countless research papers that show potent health benefits.
Similar to exposure to extreme temperatures, the pendulum has swung too far back the other way. Many frail and undernourished folks now rely heavily on fasting.
Or they justify their current habits with all the emerging science. Most of which have taken place in animal models.
Either way, many of the biggest advocates of fasting should let up and eat more. Frailty induced by loss of lean body mass has seriously detrimental effects on health and quality of life.
This is one of the many reasons why esteemed longevity-focused scientists like Dr. Peter Attia actually warn about the potential pitfalls of fasting.
When you’re under heavy stress, sleep-deprived, or under other biologically unfavorable conditions, you may want to rethink fasting. You won’t get the same benefits as usual and you’ll likely do harm.
We’re in the era of extreme diets. From raw-food macrobiotic veganism, to strictly animal-based carnivore. Or, you have diets focused around the ratio of macronutrients.
Humans consume and live on three primary macronutrients:
One of the most common characteristics shared by extreme diets is the belief in a “bad macronutrient”.
For example, the zero-carb/strict carnivore crowd espouses that there is “no such thing as essential carbohydrates” because your body can manufacture its own via a process called gluconeogenesis.
While true, this completely neglects the biological truth of the body. When you activate that pathway, the body must increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol and break down lean body tissue (ie muscle) to manufacture its own supply of carbs.
The body prefers to consume an ample amount of each of the macros for a reason. Humans intuitively knew this and would consume anything they got their hands on.
When you severely imbalance your intake of macronutrients, over time, this inefficiency will have dire effects on your overall health.
Similar to the dieters who vilify an entire macronutrient, most biohackers refuse to eat a particular food. Or entire food groups. Often (but not always), these avoidances overlap.
For example, grains are high in carbohydrates and therefore banned by keto, paleo, carnivore, and others.
They’re also banned because they contain “anti-nutrients”. These naturally occurring compounds do exist in various foods, for instance, in grains, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. Anti-nutrients can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients. But health influencers have created unnecessary fear (for most people).
Cooking and processing methods dramatically reduce anti-nutrient levels in food. Plus, they’re not dangerous in normal quantities. It’s entirely possible that they serve beneficial roles, such as xenohormesis.
For example, wheat has become public health enemy number one in recent years.
Yet the 5,000-year-old time-proven Ayurvedic medical system advocated consuming grains in the fall to support an optimal gut microbiome and to (temporarily) irritate the gut lining, provoking beneficial adaptation.
Consuming a diverse range of foods ensures that you get a wide array of nutrients, potentially counteracting the potential negative effects of anti-nutrients. Nutrients like fiber and protective plant compounds.
Plus, when you completely remove foods (or worse, entire food groups) from your diet, you diminish your ability to metabolize them later. Setting you up for problems when you later want to quit the restrictive diet. Or if you can’t avoid exposure due to a social gathering or lack of other options.
Last, but far from least, is the tendency of biohackers to completely dismiss emotions and feelings.
Yes, our qualitative internal state is subjective and thus not “hard data”. But the way we feel, especially concerning something external to us changing, powerfully impacts our biology.
Merely perceiving a threat causes the same surge of stress-inducing catecholamines as actually experiencing that threat.
Context drives our emotional landscape. Scientific research averages the response to any given intervention across the entire sample size. I believe that the wide discrepancy between the “good” and “bad” comes down to emotional context.
For example, I can have the cleanest and most nutrient-dense diet, but if I constantly feel deprived, it won’t do much good. Conversely, if I feel complete and lavish, that will certainly outweigh the effects of occasional unhealthy eating.
This is where the concept of placebo/”nocebo” comes in. We know that the placebo is the most powerful phenomenon in medicine.
Any decent salesperson or marketer will tell you the power of belief. It’s what drives human behavior. Hierarchically, feeling sits below belief. It connects the conscious with the unconscious/subconscious mind. The latter processes about 18,333,333% (yes, percent) more information than the conscious.
By ignoring emotions and feelings, you cut off your access to one of the most potent information sources available to every human.
Biohackers push the limits of possibility.
The Smarter Approach to Biohacking
At the forefront of (augmented) human potential lies risk and danger.
You can get far better results without potential harm by simply avoiding the most common biohacking mistakes.
Perhaps the most pervasive is the reductionist approach.
Humans are not linear creatures. Introduce a drug, supplement, or intervention, and it never has just one single effect. Rather, humans are made up of systems of systems (cybernetics).
Everything we do, sense, or think causes an electrobiomagnetochemical chain reaction.
The integrative approach is the only one that incorporates this and that works well over the long term.
That’s why veteran biohackers eventually realize that biohacking has its dark sides. And why they eventually switched to Bioharmony and immediately avoided all these issues.
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