Brain & Body Hacks

This article in New Scientist touches on something that is certain to accelerate: augmentation of our brains and bodies. People are hacking software, hardware, cars, bodies (now with tattoos), business models, music (mashups and remixing), and more frequently their brains.

WHAT if there was a drug that helped you do your job better, and your boss was pressuring you to take it, even though it could be bad for your health? There are already drugs that can boost memory or alertness, but whose long-term effects are unknown.

Having personal experience with attention deficit — and the methalphenyidate (e.g., Ritalin) which enhances and enables focus — I’ve been acutely interested in the apparent increase in non-medical use of neuroceuticals (cogniceuticals, emoticeuticals and sensoceuticals), in particular the use of drugs like Ritalin by those with so-called ‘normal’ brain function. This practice has been going on for many years with students (a recent law school grad I know was amazed how most of his classmates used Ritalin to focus during cram time before finals).

Think about all the steroid scandals in major league sports. Is this augmentation and hacking of the body? You bet. There isn’t a snowballs-chance-in-Hades that the body builder above could’ve been pumped like this picture without the use of steroids…but in the future it may not matter as evidenced in the picture of the kid wearing an exoskeleton.

For more about brain hacking, see Zack Lynch’s column on the Corante network and, especially, his 15 Laws of the Neurosociety.

As I read Ray Kurzweil’s new book The Singularity is Near, he provides very cogent arguments about machine augmentation for cognition, as well as for our bodies…and that developments are accelerating exponentially (encapsulation here in this interview). Undoubtedly we’ve already been augmented in many ways with surgeries and procedures (e.g., Lasik for eyes), knee replacements, cellular manipulation (e.g., chemotherapy) and in the future exoskeletons.

As enhancements continue to increase in scope and availability — and competitors in schools and for jobs hack themselves to accelerate their performance — what will you do?

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