Guide The BioHackers Almanac: First Dan

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Conclusion

There are also life hacks that can unintentionally harm the hacker and others. Consider the parallel between productivity hacking and cosmetic surgery. At the individual level, cosmetic surgery is a type of self-enhancement that can improve quality of life. It can go also wrong, making things worse. Or surface enhancements can provide temporary respite from deeper needs, leading to a cycle of interventions that never satisfy.

It is hard to claim, universally, that cosmetic surgery is good or bad for all individuals. The same is true of life hacking. And this becomes further complicated when we think about the social implications of self-enhancement. Similarly, some productivity hacks work well. Prioritizing tasks, rather than overscheduling, is key to a productive day. Drinking lots of water and holding your urine is supposed to make you more focused but is more likely to be distracting. And like some surgeries, there are hacks that can make things worse or that will never satisfy.

Overscheduling is a mistake, and superproductivity will never be enough.

Finally, enhanced productivity accelerates the demands placed on everyone, including the productive. These are the shades of gray of our digital age , a moment of far-flung interactions, ubiquitous devices, and unsettled science; a moment in which we can work remotely, outsource chores, and track and experiment with every indicator of life, from heart rate to emails sent. As with computer hacking, there are useful, useless, and harmful life hacks, with nebulous boundaries between.

By exploring these boundaries, we can better understand the challenges of the new millennium.

Chapter 1: Introduction · Hacking Life

In an economy that prizes immediacy and flexibility, how do we manage time? In a culture that values autonomy and self-reliance, how do we motivate ourselves?

In a world in which material excess is now as much a problem as deficiency, how do we relate to stuff? In a period of increasing uncertainty but ubiquitous monitoring, how do we know what really works? When we realize that nothing, even the most clever hacks, will save us from uncertainty and loss, how do we find meaning in life? Technology-related criticism speaks to these questions, usually by pitting opposing sides against one another, creating heroes and villains, rather than productive conversation.

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We can do better, in part, by asking open questions without forgone conclusions. Rather than simply concluding that Facebook makes people depressed or that it gives the depressed social support, we should ask about the different ways different people use Facebook. Similarly, rather than asking if life hackers are visionaries or cultists, we can make distinctions among practitioners and among practices. Just as I distinguish between geek and guru hackers, I distinguish between nominal and optimal hacking.

Among engineers, to say that something is nominal means that it is within the expected range. I use this term instead of normal because the latter is loaded. To return to the cosmetic surgery parallel, what does a normal nose look like in a multiethnic world? There can be different normals in different contexts. At the same time, within a single context, normal tends toward a privileged ideal. What does a normal nose look like as rhinoplasty becomes common? We can ask the same question about being productive or healthy.

The ideal becomes ever narrower: social norms affect what individuals want and vice versa. Nominal permits me to temporarily put aside issues of normalcy and draw a distinction between it and optimal , at or exceeding the leading edge. Their difference is related to intention, one of keeping up versus surpassing. Take swimming: whereas the nominal hacker wants to be a good enough swimmer to safely enjoy the water, the optimal hacker wants to be the best at racing upstream. This difference is like that between reconstructive and cosmetic surgery or between therapy and enhancement.

The distinction between nominal and optimal hacking, though, can be seen in every domain of life. Walker founded the company behind AutoCAD, an engineering and drafting program still used today. As the s came to a close, Walker was concerned that he had grown out of shape and overweight.

Ray Kurzweil, on the other hand, is an optimal health hacker. Google hired the well-known futurist in to contribute to its artificial intelligence efforts.

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He takes hundreds of vitamins and supplements a day, and the recent septuagenarian believes his efforts have taken nearly thirty years off his biological age. By hacking his health, he expects to reach the moment, a few decades away, when biological life need not end and a fully digital life is possible—and preferable. Less grandiose optimal hacks include cognitive enhancements, maniac workweeks, and Casanova-like seduction. Figure 1. I will argue in this book that life hacking, especially the optimizing type, is associated with a type of tunnel vision.

Life hacking can be like donning a set of horse blinders so as to block out distractions and focus attention on personal goals. This means, however, that with their vision fixed on the horizon, hackers can be naive to the people and circumstances on their periphery. The more optimal the hacking, the more narrow and distant the vision tends to be.

Still, I am not condemning life hacking. Dining out with a meticulous self-tracker might be tiresome, but her well-informed restaurant recommendations could be excellent. This insight is also related to the trope of the double-edged sword. A scheduling app might enable you to squeeze more into your day, which, at the end, leaves you feeling more stressed and anxious. For this, I borrow an analytic tool from Buddhist philosophy: the near enemy. Virtues, like compassion, often have an obvious opposite, like animosity; this is known as the far enemy.

A little about me, a lot about books, and a dash of something else

There are also sentiments that masquerade as virtues: pity as compassion, dependence as love, indifference as equanimity. These are near enemies. In the following chapters, I identify near enemies in the domains of work, wealth, health, relationships, and meaning. No one wants to be incapable or incompetent, but being efficient is not the same as being effective. We decry materialism, but being precious about minimalism is not the same thing as living unfettered. No one likes being sick, but compulsively checking health statistics is its own sort of illness.

We hope we are beloved, but continuous connectivity and sexual conquest will not save us from alienation. So I probably am at around 3 or 4 mol of blood ketones. Vytautas: How do you prepare for racing in ketosis?

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Ben: Stick with the sport. It takes a long time to build up the mitochondrial density to be able to generate the amount of ATP, that you need to generate through fatty acid utilisation. So my muscles will have what they need on board for hard workout tomorrow or Spartan Race in the morning. I make a chia seed slurry with some dark chocolate stevia. And you guys in the beginning of the interview said you wanted to get into the hardcore shit… So frankly, you have to freaking not be lazy.

And actually plan or prepare. Just like you would go hunting. Vytautas: So with all that stuff in your suitcase, plus the biohacking equipment which you obviously have now in one of your nostrils… Right?


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Just take my Ukulele. Pack smart. Sam: So you fit all that into a hand luggage? Ben: Yeah. Take a shower with my clothes… Dry my clothes. And the laptop case I take with me. I have a very small PMF device, intranasal light therapy, bluetooth heart rate monitor, an iPhone, a kindle, a laptop.

Episode 1: What is Biohacking?

Some clothes to get me through couple of days. Usually some kind of compression gear and some essential oils, supplements. Sleep mask, headphones… mp3 player… Those are some of the main things. Vytautas: Going back to the biohacking… HRV is very big this and past year. What do you think is next in the biohacking? What direction will it take? Ben: Probably just more efficient self quantification via lab on a chip technology.

The ability to test all of your parameters without going to the lab and filling in all 19 test tubes with blood. You get all your genetic data. But I mean, all these places like 23and me… send you some generic data as a pdf. I export my data and import to Promethease to look at specific genetic snips. I have come out of dark times! I have expanded my business and now have a second location in Los Angeles!