Did you know that we use only 10 percent of our brains? You probably knew that since a lot of movies such as Limitless (2011) and Lucy (2014) are based on this. They claim that human beings use only 10 percent of their brain’s capacity and go on to show all that we could achieve if we were to access 100 percent of it. From developing proficiency in foreign languages to becoming a financial wizard, from perfecting marksmanship to achieving telepathy and telekinesis; these movies depict a sort of ‘mental’ rags-to-riches story. Intriguing, right? Well, there’s another fact you would probably find interesting. It’s a myth. Yes. There is no truth to the notion that we use only 10 percent of our brain. Many neurologists have debunked this myth and often reiterate that the majority of the brain is always active.
The reason why the 10-percent concept sounds appealing is that it suggests the possibility of becoming more creative, more intelligent and more successful, by somehow harnessing that untouched 90 percent. Thus, even though the concept is scientifically flawed, people might be inspired to try harder. It is like Bradley Cooper said in the movie Limitless, “I was blind, but now I see”. It aimed at unlocking one’s potential and showcased the possibility of knowing what it’s like to become the perfect version of oneself. Everything Eddie (the character) read, heard or saw was processed faster and efficiently, and was available in an organised manner. The only difference between the movie and reality is that it isn’t through tapping into a new area of the brain, rather, by creating new connections between the nerve cells. And this is what ‘bio-hacking’ encompasses.
Dave Asprey, the Father of Biohacking, puts it as, “the art and science of changing the environment around you and inside you so that you have full control over your own biology”. Some biohackers define it as “the marriage of ancestral wisdom and modern science to enhance longevity”. Basically, it is the process of manipulating the brain and the body in order to optimize performance, outside the realm of traditional medicine. You won’t get superpowers as shown in movies, but will surely perform better. Imagine you are 50, but look, feel and perform as though you’re 30, just by tweaking certain aspects of your lifestyle! Admit it. You would invest in the prospect of a healthier, longer life. So, the question is, how?
Biohacking covers a variety of activities ranging from something as simple as changes in diet or tracking your sleep, to complex procedures involving young blood transfusion in the hope that it will fight aging. For instance, Dave Asprey has had stem cells injected into his joints, takes dozens of supplements, meditates daily, practices intermittent fasting and bathes in infrared light, all to aid him in his quest to live up to the age of 180. You need not go to such extremes as implanting chips inside you, but start with small steps that cost less but have high return on investment, basically anything that enhances brain function.
Some practices that we follow without knowing that we are biohacking are proper nutrition (follow a proper diet plan that suits your body), exercise (any form, not necessarily going to the gym), quality sleep (avoid blue-light, emitted from electronics, before sleeping) etc. But one of the things that works exceptionally well and is easy to follow, is ‘cryotherapy’. Relax, it’s not as dangerous as it sounds. It involves bringing down the body temperature simply by standing under a shower and letting cold water fall on your forehead for 10 seconds, for three consecutive days. This not only energises the body but also increases metabolism. Another easy routine to follow is to be ‘grateful’. Many biohackers, including the Father of Biohacking, insist on practicing gratitude every day. It may sound ‘too spiritual’ but gratitude has a profound effect on our nervous system and points to a higher state of performance.
Now, these were the low cost or no cost techniques. Remember that biohacking involves augmenting the body with technology. There are plenty of technological advancements being made in the field of technology that can essentially lead to transformation of humans into cyborgs. One method that is currently on the rise is the implantation of grain-sized microchips into the hand that can store information, make payments and even maybe start your car, easily accessible through scanning with the phone! A lot of research is also being done in the field of gene editing. CRISPR technology, for instance, allows scientists to edit DNA sequences and modify gene function. Scientists are also working towards used this to solve larger issues like eradicating malaria. Such procedures – chip implantation, gene editing, blood transfusion, introduction of new supplements – are bound to be expensive and thus, a whole new segment has opened up in the business world.
According to AngelList, around 540 investors are involved or interested in biohacking start-ups. Rather than focusing on fighting sickness as pharmaceutical companies mostly do, biohacking provides an opportunity to entrepreneurs to come up with solutions catering to the otherwise healthy people who seek to enhance their everyday performance. Bulletproof, a company started by Dave Asprey, sells various products to aid biohacking. Their most famous Bulletproof coffee or Butter coffee (Yes, that’s right) contains quality fats and high-quality coffee beans and acts as a substitute for a carb-heavy breakfast. Another company, Soylent Nutrition Inc. started in 2014, offers products containing a complete blend of proteins, carbohydrates and micronutrients, thus providing a balanced diet.
Companies developing ‘wearable technology’ such as smart watches that track one’s heart rate, steps, sleep etc. are also part of the biohacking industry. Muse is the perfect blend of biohacking, brain sensors and meditation. It’s a headband that gives audio feedback (non-intrusive, environmental sounds) based on your state of mind, helping you to focus. Biohacking also dives into the field of ‘nootropics’, i.e. smart drugs that increase cognitive abilities.
A lot of businesses have opened up around this, for instance, Nootrobox that provides easy-to-swallow pills like chewable coffee.
There are a number of such entrepreneurial ventures that are coming up, taking the initiative to enhance human lives by combining biological knowledge with the advanced technology. As an emerging industry and owing to people’s desire to live heathier and longer, biohacking market is expected to see exceptionally high growth over the next five years. In fact, the global market for biohacking is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.42 percent during 2017-2023. Thus, tech-entrepreneurs have an opportunity to capitalize on this new trend. As Karima Benameur, a professor of neurology, said, “People are always interested in making themselves better and if they can find shortcuts to do that, they will.”
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From the beautiful city of Chandigarh, Ananya likes to describe herself as an introvert who finds her escape in art and music. She loves to sleep, watch movies, travel and is all in for some adventure.