Biohacker summit Stockholm 2017
Wheeling a B vitamin drip on stage, the tone was set right from the start! Our host was an enthusiastic character and fellow ‘biohacker’ alongside Teemu, one of the 3 masterminds behind the event.
I quickly learnt that this community has the common goal of striving to become real life ‘Jedis’. Not only do they want to visualise their physiology using tech and track there biology, but they want to learn which events to repeat and what environment is best for their optimal performance whatever their goals may be. The objective is to use tech for utility rather than intrusion and with that in mind here are my 5 tips and takeaways from the event.
1. Use Tracking and Monitoring tech Mindfully
One of the most fascinating people I’ve ever come across was Chris Dancy, Google’s “most connected” man. He has used every tracking device you can think of and he gave a phenomenal talk about what he has learnt on his journey. He talked about how automated we have become and how he started to hang out less with humans the more connected he was because we’re “inefficient”.
It was quite an unexpected talk considering the audience and the theme of biohacking, but in my opinion very welcome.
Use your apps wisely. Reliance, intrusion and constant communications prevent us from living in the present. Chris now has random alerts on his phone to remind him of how loved he is and who his family are. He cleared a lot of his home screen, he has ‘wrapped’ social icons using ‘space’ to make him think before using social media and slow the process down. Subtle reminders like these encourage us to, as he put it, ‘hack our hearts’.
2. Sleep is the new Exercise
Arian Poler is an investor based in silicon valley and has interests in 100s of companies from disposable tech to robotic suits. The number of companies moving into health tech is staggering, and a clear trend for ‘sleep hacking’ is emerging. Despite not knowing too much about why we actually sleep, we know that this period of unconsciousness is vital for our survival. Improving the amount of quality shut eye hours has never been so important. Travel, electronic stimulation and artificial environments are all having a toll and tech solutions range from specialised ‘sleep’ lights to bone conducting stimulation to initiate and improve shut eye.
For now, electronic detox (i.e no tech 2 hours before bed), refrain from late night snacking, using dim lights indoors in the evenings, as well as sleep masks and ear plugs still seem to be the best ‘hacks’ we have proof of. But humidity, airflow, even particular houseplants to store in the bedroom all may have an effect. Check out the Biohackers Guide to Sleep for more information on how people are taking ‘sleep hacking’ to another dimension!
3. Fasting to improve longevity?
Fasting appears to be the next trend amongst nutrition hackers. We’ve already had 5:2 diets and juice cleansers, but a significant number in the audience were both regular fasters and largely of a Paleo persuasion. In fact I was sitting next to an attendee who swore by her personal experiences with migraines and brain fog.
“I used to have 4-5 migraines a week 2 years ago. Quite debilitating ones that would take me out of work for hours on end. Since I started cycling a ketogenic diet I now only have 1 or 2 per year. It’s amazing. I’ve had my bloods checked with my doctor and I’m in good shape”
It’s remarkable what this dietary strategy is being used for and the theory behind mimicking an ancestral lifestyle is intriguing. I’ve been a fan of ‘defined eating periods’ for a while now. They’re an easy way of controlling what you eat and preventing late night snacking (the downfall of a lot of patients) but the idea that fasting acts as a ‘clean-up’ for your body is interesting. There is evidence to suggest a fast once a month could upregulate certain survival genes and improve fat utility, but then begs the question “what is a fast?”. Is it a simple water fast for 24 hours. Is it the more extreme where people do not eat anything for 3 days or is it 16:8 which is gaining popularity. My guess is that it’s very individual but as evidence gathers for fasting as a practice for health (outside cultural norms) I suspect their could be some benefits for those looking to re-sensitise themselves to insulin and perhaps even prevent dementia? As a population of self-experimenters, it’s no wonder most of these guys we on the fasting trend despite limited research.
4. Cooling Down and Heating Up
Cryo blasts and saunas are being sold as the new rejuvenating trend in biohacking. Ever since a Finnish paper noted a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and all cause mortality amongst men who used the sauna regularly, researchers have been investigating if there is a plausible biological reason. It’s suggested that heat shock proteins produced in response to the sauna practice may upregulate particular genes involved in longevity. This intriguing phenomena is also noted in those who cold water swim. A new practice of cold thermogenesis involving a cryochambers where you’re exposed to 0C for 2-3 mins is proving popular amongst biohackers in an effort to improve cognition, mitochondrial activity and brown adipose tissue use. I’m a big fan of Dr. Rhonda Patrick who has blogged about this for the summit here and even the Alzeihmers society has commented here.
5. Your skin as an interface
The most exceptional talk of the day was from Professor Katia Vega from Brazil. Her talk was entitled beauty hacking and involved an awesome display of tech nails inspired by her love of ‘invisible technology’. Microchips installed in the gems of her shellac nails enabled her to play an air piano for us. She also played a video of makeup worn over the eyes that was able to change colour almost like a chameleon. But the most impressive subject of her talk revolved around using our skin as an interface.
With tiny motion sensors placed at different points on the face, she demonstrated how by simply raising the eyebrows one could control the lights or smiling could control another electronic. This may not seem like the most useful of interfaces but for a patient of hers who visited the lab and was unable to use his limbs, having a facial interface allowed him to turn on a TV unassisted for the first time in 30 years. As we become more tech dependent, keyboards become inefficient and SIRI takes over, using the 2metres squared covering our bodies may actually come in useful. Check out all of these amazing projects here, and look out for aqua-djing and ‘Kinsi’.
Sceptics will regard this event as the path toward creating world of technology driven hypochondriacs. I agree that there is a double edged sword of creating more consumer available monitoring devices producing huge amounts of data that may not have a clear purpose. But as long as we keep a focus on how tech ultimately helps us improve our lifestyles (sleep, exercise, work, mindfulness and nutrition) there will always be a hunger for more. The most connected man in the world summed it up best by talking about how we need tech to hack our hearts in a paradoxically “more connected” environment?
The main event is in Helsinki October 13-14th this year and I would highly recommend you to attend if you’re interested in this world that pushes the boundaries and encourages us to think outside of the realms of what is possible today. It was inspiring.
You can use the code “DOCTORS” for a discount
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