- Neuroplasticity – An In-Depth Guide to How it Works and How to Transform Your Brain
- Training to Develop Synaesthesia for Improved Memory and Maths Ability (Theoretically)
- How to Train Like Bruce Lee for Insane Power and Speed
- A Complete Guide to Transhumanism
- The Surface Pro 3 – Ideal Productivity for Web Entrepreneurs
- Can You Bench Press a Dinosaur??
- The Neuroscience of Genius And Increasing Intelligence
- How Caffeine Affects Neurotransmitters and Profoundly Changes Your Brain
- A Detailed Guide to Your Brain – So You Can Start Hacking It
- Almost Every Bodyweight Exercise Ever (150+ Moves)
Cyberpunk and Transhuman Technologies You Can Try Right Now (Or Very Soon!)
Transhuman technology is any technology that allows us to ‘upgrade’ ourselves in terms of our physical athleticism, our intelligence, our senses, our longevity or in any other capacity. There are many different schools of thought within transhumanism and many different goals.
But while a lot of people get very philosophical about it all, I’m mainly interested in it because it means becoming a superhero… I find the idea of becoming faster, stronger and smarter massively appealing mainly because it would allow me to run across rooftops and to be an ass without worrying about getting punched. I’m not sure if I’m the only guy who feels that way, or if I’m just the only guy willing to admit it.
I love the Deus Ex series, which is all about transhumanism, because of the way the upgrades are intertwined with choice and freedom. Because you can fall from any height and jump higher, you can explore higher-up areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Because you can soak up bullets, you can stop muggings in the street and you don’t have to do what you’re told. Because you can hack computers and pick locks, there’s nowhere you can’t go. To me, transhumanism is awesome because it equates to more freedom.
Also it just looks cool having a heads-up display showing you your stats.
But transhumanism isn’t the ‘distant ideal’ that’s centuries away from happening. At least my kind of transhumanism isn’t (you might have to wait a little on that consciousness uploading thing). In fact, there are plenty of technologies available right now that definitely are pretty ‘transhuman’ and rather cyberpunk too. Some of these you can already buy and actually start using right now.
Sure, none of them will quite turn you into Iron Man, but they’re nevertheless pretty exciting and the kinds of things that we would have thought of as science fiction a decade ago.
Let’s dive into some of the most transhuman technologies available commercially and ‘underground’.
Fitness Trackers and Wearable Tech
Why has no one noticed how cyberpunk this is? When I’m wearing my Microsoft Band I have a 24 hour readout telling me my heartrate and allowing me to see how hard I’m exerting myself. What’s more, I can answer e-mails and texts and do searches via a virtual assistant. That’s some pretty Transhuman stuff there, and although it’s not implanted, it’s still on your person and something you can even wear when you’re sleeping. You can even sync the Band up to work with Xbox Fitness through the Kinect, so that the software can monitor your movements as well as your vital signs.
Fitness trackers are getting way more advanced though too. FitLinxx is a heartrate monitor you can stick to your body and that will also monitor things like exercise load, skin temperature and even your posture. ‘Pavlock’ will give you an electric shock whenever you break a resolution (scary) and others promise to be able to monitor precise movements like press ups and certain swimming strokes. Bodybuilders out there will be all over the ‘Cue’ health tracker that monitors testosterone (as well as measuring vitamin D, inflammation and even fertility).
Not cyber punk enough for you? Okay then how about…
Over at biohack.me, there’s an underground community of transhumanists (known as ‘grinders’) who are interested in upgrading themselves in their garages. It’s pretty hardcore too: these guys actually surgically implant things into their bodies at home and upload the videos to YouTube. It’s equally gross and cool at the same time: like a snake eating its own body.
Obviously it goes without saying that there are some dangers here. Try at your own risk!
One of the most popular procedures on the site involves implanting a small neodymium magnet into the tip of your finger. Once you’ve done that, it will be surrounded by nerves which are particularly densely clustered in this area. This means that when the magnet slightly moves – because you’re passing through an electromagnetic field – you’ll be able to feel it as a tingling sensation.
Essentially then, this gives you a ‘sixth sense’ (a misnomer but you know what I mean…) and you’ll be able to ‘sense’ when you pass over an underground railway line, or accidentally leave the microwave on. Or stand near a magnet.
I mean, these are pretty much the only applications. And I’m a bit reluctant to cut open my own hand lest I cause serious nerve damage. But still. Right?
Oh to be fair, you can also attach paper clips to your fingers…
There’s a lot more interesting discussion over at biohack.me, so check it out!
Implanting Chips and Electrodes
Not impressed with embedding magnets in your body?
Then how about going a little further and implanting an RFID or NFC chip instead?
The applications of this certainly go much further than the magnet and could involve anything from being able to swipe your hand to unlock your car or pay for coffee, to being able to unlock your compute/phone (you could always use a finger print scanner, or Windows Hello but that is not the point…). There’s an NFC Secure Unlock app that will let you use your phone this way.
It’s all done with a syringe, so there’s actually no need to cut yourself open… There is a little bit of blood involved though. And if it sounds too creepy, keep in mind that we’ve been implanting chips into our pets for years now. And in fact it’s entirely the same process…
A much easier way to achieve the very same thing is with an NFC wristband, and you can actually buy those from the same site. To me this is more of a ‘proof of concept’ – we’re likely to see some more exciting applications for these sorts of procedures in the near future.
Implants are already being used medically to treat conditions like depression and epilepsy. Implanted electrodes in the brain work by stimulating specific neurons. It should be telling that this research is being funded by the military (to the tune of $70 million) and the applications for brain-computer interfaces and even cognitive enhancement are obvious. Can you imagine a world where you can use an app on your phone to decide if you’d like more focus, or more
It’s not that much different from the kinds of implants used by women as a form of contraceptive.
What else could you implant? Perhaps a GPS chip? Or maybe you could go as far as Kevin Warwick and implant an entire electrode array in order to control a bionic arm and communicate over distance with his wife? That’s beyond the means of most of us, but it’s happening right now and it’s certainly very transhuman. A paper that Warwick published was called ‘The Application of Implant Technology for Cybernetic Systems’. How cool is that?
Night Vision Drops
Something that might be a bit more Deus-Ex like, is using an eye drop solution (called Chlorin e6) in order to see in the dark. This is a substance that allows certain types of fish to see in the dark and it basically triggers a chemical reaction in the eye to amplify low light sources.
The Ce6 was combined with insulin by a group called ‘Science for the Masses’ and was then dropped via pipet into the conjunctival sac of a willing subject, one Gabriel Licina. The eyes turn black for a couple of seconds and following that, the subject could see much better in total darkness than would normally be possible. It wears off after a bit, so in theory it could be used on an ‘as needed’ basis.
You can read the full report here. There are no studies looking at long-term effects though, so it’s not really recommended that you play around with this one…
I’ve also discussed before how virtual reality could provide some impressive brain training in future. Computer games have been shown to help improve our problem solving, attention, awareness and even visual acuity by essentially emulating high-pressure situations. Imagine being able to do that same thing in a VR set-up that your brain has trouble discerning from reality? It would be like the War Room from X-Men!
What’s much more exciting from a transhuman perspective is augmented reality. This is virtual reality combined with normal reality. In other words, you can see digital information overlaid on top of what’s really around you. This will someday allow us to see information regarding the temperature, our elevation, special offers in stores, our geographic location and way more. Google Glass was unfortunately something of a failure (despite looking very futuristic) but the real excitement now is that surrounding the Microsoft HoloLens. This lets you see ‘holograms’ in your environment, and has applications such as being able to get live tuition on things you’re doing from instructors halfway across the world.
Supplements, Nootropics and Performance Enhancers
Is a supplement transhuman?
I don’t know – you could definitely say that something like NZT (from Limitless) would be an example of transhumanism if it existed and we do have some real-world analogues for this like modafinil. Modafinil isn’t as good as NZT, or even close, and personally I don’t recommend it. But still, it makes you more focused, more alert and less tired. And surely that’s kind of transhuman?
And other nootropics, while less potent, carry fewer risks. The kind I’ve always been interested in are the ‘cognitive metabolic enhancers’ that increase cellular energy for the brain, and I’m also curious about nootropics that enhance neuroplasticity.
But then we could also say that creatine, which improves energy levels and IQ, is also a form of transhuman technology. And how about steroids? Sure, they have lots of negative side effects but so does chopping off your arm to replace it with a bionic one. Steroids can already make us stronger and faster and even accelerate our recovery and increase our drive and focus.
I’m not an advocate of steroids as unfortunately they carry some risks I’m just not cool with (like impotence). That said though, I’m all for using a range of other supplements including my protein shakes, various amino acids and the aforementioned creatine. Right now, I’m experimenting with a lesser known supplement called ‘Shalijit’ that is also known as the ‘destroyer of weakness’.
Want something a bit more cyberpunk? Then how about Soylent. This is supposedly everything your body needs in a single supplement. The idea is that you don’t need to cook any more or worry about food going off – you can save time and money by just living off of this one mixture. A good idea? Possible not. An interesting one? Fo sho!
TDCS is ‘Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation’. It’s an interesting concept that involves stimulating or suppressing areas of the brain to create all kinds of effects. Among these are heightened focus, which is something being exploited by professional gamers.
You can actually buy a device right now called ‘Foc.Us’ which is designed specifically to improving gaming performance via brain stimulation. It’s described as ‘Overclocking Your Brain’ on the website.
Other applications for TDCS include enhancing brain plasticity for enhanced learning and even lucid dreaming.
Gear and Hardware
So in other words, we have the technology right now to start exploring cyberspace, to supercharge our brains, to communicate wirelessly with machines and other people, to see in the dark, to run further and more. And you can do all those things with just a debit card and internet connection.
Probably don’t though. If I’m honest, a lot of this stuff is just either painful, expensive, a let-down or all three. Implanting NFC is one of those ideas that’s awesome on paper but has few practical applications that you can’t achieve with a fancy watch. Likewise, TDCS looks promising in the studies but the device is expensive and you’re likely to notice only a very marginal difference if anything. And you can’t really wear it out and about.
But what I do enjoy using, is a ton of cool equipment designed to help me get better performance out of myself without doing any damage and while letting me ‘go back to normal’ at the end of the day.
If you want a little performance upgrade or a trippy experience, here are some purchases/downloads I recommend:
Decent Running Shoes: I have the Nike Air Zooms which let me run much further before I fatigue and put a real spring in my step, but I also like the Nike Free Runs for trail running.
Vibram Five Fingers: I know these have had some bad press lately, but the Vibram Five Fingers give you a massive performance boost when it comes to things like balancing on railings or trail running. Your feet also feel super light, you just have to go easy in them to start with.
Dark Fin Black O.P.S. Gloves: These gloves are designed for obstacle racing and they’re awesome. They’re super thin, incredibly grippy and they protect your hands. If you’re performing a cat leap in parkour, you’ll really benefit from these when you catch the ledge the other side.
Power Risers: Want to feel like the bionic man for a day? Then get yourself a pair of power risers. These are awesome ‘spring stilts’ that let you run at top speeds approaching 30mph and do front flips over fences. Or if you’re me, it will let you wobble around while screaming.
Some other ‘Iron Man for a Day’ technologies include the awesome ‘Jet Lev’ which is a jetpack that works by firing water (you need to be over a river or lake) or of course the good old Segway which is intended to replace walking with something more exciting – not walking. Innovation SCV is a smaller Segway without the handle that’s a lot cheaper, and Hovertrax is similar too. These are the closest we’re likely to get to a hoverboard any time soon.
Backpack: Perhaps JC Denton’s best trick of all was being able to carry a bazooka and several rifles around in his bag at once without being slowed down. While I’ve yet to find a bag that can do that, there are plenty of cool backpacks out there that fit closer to the back and have breathable, flexible materials. This makes it much easier to go running while carrying a computer.
Computer/Smartphone: Really smartphones are the most space-age technology that has seen mass adoption and computers and tablets aren’t far behind. I have a set-up that I call my ‘mobile command center’ – it consists of a Surface Pro 3 which I use with a Wireless Keyboard and Mouse. I also have an 8 inch Windows 10 tablet that I use as a second monitor. It looks like a full desktop PC set-up but is portable enough to fit in a bag. And I earn my living from it from coffee shops, libraries and sometimes more exotic locations.
Dynaometer: For Christmas I got a dynamometer that allows me to measure my gripping strength in KG. It’s a cool device for some immediate feedback on my strength training and morning grip strength also correlates with testosterone and recovery – a handy stop gap until I get my hands on a Cue fitness tracker.
Some Apps: I love the app I made that turns my smartphone into a desktop-type productivity station. It’s called ‘Multiscreen Multitasking’.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been playing with live video streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope lately. These let you see footage live as people around the world capture it on their phones – it’s like seeing the world through their eyes. If this catches on then we could witness world events live through the eyes of thousands of people present. It could be a game-changer.
And for something transhuman and trippy, try ‘RjDj’. This is augmented reality but for sound and it works by changing sounds as they come in through your headphones. It turns the everyday world into an amazing ‘soundscape’.
PlanetFour: It’s not an app, but if you want to be the first to explore areas of the surface of Mars, you can do it over at PlanetFour.org by sifting through footage from satellites that NASA hasn’t gotten around to checking out yet. Do you need any more proof that we are living in the future?
Hands-Free Kit: A hands-free kit is a pretty old piece of tech these days but it still feels super useful. It lets you do things like go running while at the same time chatting to a friend or booking a restaurant for later. Yes, I did just go from exploring the surface of Mars to ‘hands free kit’. Deal.
All I’m saying is there’s plenty of stuff out there that you can use to upgrade your performance right now. And we’re pretty much living in that cyberpunk future all the fiction promised. Did you know that people have already paid to have their pets cloned? By a commercial service?
Though to be honest, I still haven’t found anything more effective than some honest training.