Differences: Bodyhacking vs Biohacking
As with any cutting-edge subject matter many of the terms and definitions are not yet well understood or easily defined, may even be actively in flux, or end up defined by an eventual begrudging consensus. Today we’re going to discuss one such emerging subject at the core of our industry, the similarities and differences between the disciplines of bodyhacking and biohacking.
Many use the terms biohacking and bodyhacking interchangeably, but that’s not quite right… There are many subjects that one might consider bodyhacking that have nothing to do with biology at all, and conversely, many subjects that are very clearly biohacking may have nothing to do with an existing human or other organism’s “body”.
Let’s explore bodyhacking first. Loosely defined in a number of places already, most definitions center around manipulating the human body as a system — like a traditional hacker would a computer — to cause the system to behave in a way that it was not originally intended. When viewed from this perspective, it becomes immediately clear that this includes many pursuits that have nothing to do with the actual biology of the body. Likely the most notable of these are wearable technologies. Sure, while many wearables may perform functions such as monitoring biological or health data, many do not. Wearables exist that provide augmented reality heads-up displays for your vision, that provide a motivational tempo for your workday, and countless other functions. None of these invasively or or even passively interface with the biology of the body itself, and therefore cannot be considered biohacking. Further arguments could be made for many other bodyhacking examples, such as:
• Data tracking of more abstract non-biological data such as your state of mind, emotions, mood, or behaviors.
• Meditation, relaxation, and cognitive training. Here, the bodyhacker is manipulating the functionality of the mind and body through mental exercise or thought training, not directly manipulating the biology of the brain or the body itself such as is done with nootropic or health supplements.
• Some basic prosthetics that are merely attachments and don’t interface with the biology of the body like some advanced prosthetics do with the nervous system.
As you can see, there are many places where bodyhacking does not overlap with biohacking, and the list presented here is far from comprehensive.
Now let’s explore biohacking. More well defined as essentially hacking within the realm of biology, biohacking obviously includes many bodyhacking pursuits that involve the biology of the body. However, biohacking also encompases many scientific endeavors which either do not involve a body, or don’t target an existing organism at all but instead create a brand new organism. Take the many different forms of genetic engineering for example; While genetic engineering techniques can certainly be used to introduce modifications into an existing host organism, by and large this scientific discipline is more concerned with the engineering of new or novel organisms, sometimes to the extent of managing multiple generations of controlled-evolution or mutation of an existing organism. Examples of genetic engineering that do not target or involve an existing “body” include:
• Bacterial modification, one of the absolute earliest examples of biohacking, is the modification or creation of novel microbes for use in industrial processes. These new or modified microbes perform functions such as consuming or producing a chemical that humans desire like fuel or pharmaceuticals.
• Mitochondrial manipulation, which is an assisted reproduction in-vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy that allows the creation of a new baby human from more than two parents’ genetic material
• Genetically-modified crops, or “super foods”, are engineered to survive drought, produce more nutrients, and resist pests without the use of pesticides. Enhanced agriculture such as this are usually referred to as the broader term “Genetically Modified Organism” or GMO’s.
I hope these examples help make it more clear that bodyhacking and biohacking are not quite the same thing, and while there is overlap, both actually include much more beyond where they do overlap.