If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you have probably encountered one of their limited, four-episode series “Unnatural Selection,” which shows the extent by which people aim to eradicate diseases and improve humanity through gene editing. This concept is apparently no longer only evident in science fiction.
More and more people are now into some form of biohacking. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, for one, has been advocating intermittent fasting and “salt juice” intake. Some even go to extreme lengths by injecting themselves with DNA via CRISPR, a gene-editing technology. Others implant chips in their hands in an attempt to improve the human species. Check out this video for example.
This post delves into the good and the bad when it comes to human enhancement and answers some of the most frequently asked questions about human enhancement, biohacking, and transhumanism.
What are Human Enhancement, Biohacking, and Transhumanism?
Human enhancement is the process where individuals use biomedical technologies beyond curing or preventing diseases.
Meanwhile, according to biohacker and Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey, biohacking is “the art and science of changing the environment around and inside you so that you have full control over your own biology.” A committed proponent of the biohacking movement, Asprey already spent more than US$1 million in an attempt to reach the age of 180.
Finally, transhumanism is a movement comprising biohackers that experiment outside traditional laboratories. They propose that humans should exploit technology to improve and evolve the species.
Human enhancement, biohacking, and transhumanism are thus all concepts that aim to improve an individual’s performance via technology- or science-based interventions or “hacking” of the human body. In essence, these concepts attempt to manipulate the human brain and body to ensure that it can perform at an optimal level through practices beyond the borders of traditional medicine.
What are Common Applications of Human Enhancement, Biohacking, and Transhumanism?
Human enhancement is achievable in a variety of ways. Humans can enhance their performance, for example, by using wearables or getting nano implants. They can also rely on software such as a brain-computer interface (BCI) or gene therapy programs.
Biohacking applications, on the other hand, can include a wide range of activities such as tracking one’s sleep pattern and diet to change his/her biological makeup. Some proponents even experiment with blood transfusions from a young person to an older one in an attempt to stem aging.
Most extreme perhaps are human augmentation practices that fall under transhumanism. These involve complex procedures like cryonics or preserving a human body even after it undergoes cellular death.
What Risks Come with Human Enhancement, Biohacking, and Transhumanism?
The growing popularity of these human augmentation concepts is spurring several groups to self-administer substances or carry out procedures on their own bodies without the supervision and regulation of any authority bringing forth dangers such as:
Threats to Human Safety
At present, no rules or safety controls cover such practices, and so they may be open to abuse. Proponents could be putting their or volunteers’ health at significant risk. Just imagine a group of biohackers manipulating their bodies through gene editing in uncontrolled settings such as a citizen science laboratory. What would happen if anything goes wrong? Who would be held responsible?
Despite the voluntary nature of the experiments, regulations about how much human experimentation in group laboratories should be allowed have yet to exist. Are human enhancement practitioners violating the fundamental human right to life?
Chip implantation opens up a multitude of privacy concerns as well. For example, several years ago, a communication chip that allows users to evade army scanners was developed. The said chip, however, can easily hack and manipulate nearby smartphones.
While human enhancement, biohacking, and transhumanism aim to improve humankind, current unauthorized and unregulated applications pose risks. Proponents have yet to address challenges before further exploration should continue.