Ankord Memo - June 25th, 2024


June 25, 2024


Milan Kordestani

Entrepreneur, writer, and founder of 3 purpose-driven companies oriented toward giving individuals control over their own discourse and creation. Milan works to produce socially positive externalities through a mindset of social architecture.

Milan Kordestani

June 25, 2024

Milan Kordestani Profile Image

Milan Kordestani

Hi! I'm Milan, an LA based founder and writer, architecting impact-first businesses.

Popular Articles

See More

Hi Friends!

Summer is finally here, and I’m falling in love with the warm evenings, sunny days,  and ample time to catch up on tasks that haven’t been bound by intimidating due dates! One of those tasks has been architecting the marketing plan for my next book, and conducting lots of outreach to create content that’s related. One of the many topics that has gained some traction and questions while receiving feedback on my manuscript has been about the concept of transhumanism. Thus, this week's newsletter dives into the fascinating world of transhumanist philosophy and practice, exploring how many of us are using technology and biohacking to push the boundaries of what it means to be human. I’ll talk a little about the wild visions of our transhumanist future, and introduce you to the transhumanist practices you’re already doing today without even realizing it! 

Transhumanism and the Future of Humanity

Have you ever wondered if there's more to human potential than what our biology currently allows? This is the central question that drives transhumanism, a philosophical movement that explores the possibility and desirability of using technology to overcome our inherent limitations. Transhumanists envision a future where advancements in fields like synthetic biology (genetic engineering), artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology can enhance our cognitive abilities, physical health, and even lifespan.

This concept might sound like science fiction, but transhumanist philosophy is rapidly gaining traction. From the quest to eradicate disease to the potential for brain-computer interfaces, the technologies that could usher in this new era are already being developed. As we delve deeper into the world of transhumanism, it's crucial to consider the ethical and social implications of pushing the boundaries of what it means to be human. Will these advancements create a more equitable and fulfilling existence for all, or will they exacerbate existing inequalities? The questions transhumanism raises are profound, and the answers will undoubtedly shape the course of our future.

Julian Huxley, a biologist and philosopher (and brother to Brave New World author Aldous), coined the term "transhumanism" in his 1957 essay of the same name. He envisioned a future where humans transcended their current form through advancements in technology and science, writing,

the human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself —not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature. (Huxley, J. (2015). Transhumanism. Ethics in Progress, 6(1), 12-16.)

Today, writers like Nick Bostrom and Max More dominate academic debates about transhumanist ethics, while biohackers put many of their ideas into practice. If you want to learn more about the evolution of transhumanist ideas, check out some of the reading suggestions below!

There are several fields of transhumanism, which I want to introduce you to briefly - but please reach out with questions if one of these topics is particularly interesting to you. I’ll be doing deeper dives into each of these in upcoming weeks:

  • Living Forever: Longevity research focuses on extending lifespans and combating aging. Researchers are exploring various strategies like biohacking, regenerative medicine, and genetic manipulation. The SENS Research Foundation, for example, aims to achieve a state where aging is no longer the primary cause of death.
  • Body Modification and Cyborgism: Another key area is morphological freedom, the ability to modify one's body. This includes advanced prosthetics that blur the lines between human and machine, such as the new Neuralink technologies that connect the mind with machines. Genetic engineering and body modification raise questions about our biases about our bodies, as well as questions about neurodiversity.
  • Uploading our Minds: Superintelligence, or AI surpassing human capabilities, is another area of interest for transhumanists because of the cooperative relationships we will build. Discussions delve into whole brain emulation, uploading a human mind digitally, and the technological singularity, a hypothetical moment of unpredictable change triggered by superintelligent AI. 
  • Surviving the Cosmos: Space colonization is another theme, with proponents believing it's crucial for long-term human survival. Space travel is hard on our bodies, so we may need to upgrade our bodies to travel outside our solar system.
  • Self-Improvement for All: Democratic transhumanism emphasizes equitable access to these technologies to avoid exacerbating existing social inequalities: how can we be sure that curing diseases, prolonging life, and improving our bodies are all processes that are accessible to all people, not just the wealthy.

The Ethical Labyrinth of Transhumanism

Transhumanism raises a complex web of ethical questions. The first challenge is ensuring informed consent and bodily autonomy. With ever-more intricate procedures altering our bodies and minds, we need to make sure people understand the potential consequences, both positive and negative. Furthermore, the concept of bodily autonomy itself needs reevaluation if we fundamentally alter our biology through genetic engineering or brain-computer interfaces.

The ethical considerations extend beyond individuals. Transhumanist technologies could be used to create super soldiers or autonomous weapons, leading to a terrifying arms race. To prevent this, international dialogue and regulations are crucial. We need to harness the potential of transhumanism for security without unleashing destructive weaponry.

Another concern is hacking and security breaches. As brain-computer interfaces become commonplace, vulnerabilities will emerge. Robust security measures and international cooperation on cybersecurity protocols are essential to protect individuals from manipulation and ensure privacy.

The potential to erase perceived imperfections presents a complex problem. Transhumanism might allow us to cure diseases like cystic fibrosis, but where do we draw the line? Will we lose something by eliminating variations like Down Syndrome or ADHD? Transhumanism shouldn't strive for a uniform humanity; it should celebrate diversity and fuel innovation.

We must be wary of approaches that seek to standardize our mental processes. A world without the unique perspectives of those with disabilities or the groundbreaking ideas of those who think differently would be a world less poised for progress. Transhumanism should celebrate the richness of human variation to push us toward moonshot moments.

The dream of transhumanism crumbles without equitable access. If life-extending technologies and cognitive boosters become the privilege of the wealthy, a deepened societal divide is guaranteed. This isn't just morally repugnant, it stifles innovation. A world where only a select few benefit squanders the potential for a richer tapestry of ideas.

The promise of transhumanism hinges on ensuring everyone, regardless of economic background, has the chance to participate. We already see glimpses of the potential divide in our current world, with access to healthcare and basic medications highlighting disparities. To prevent a future segregated by access, we must begin now to lay the groundwork for equitable distribution and prioritize the collective good over profit margins.

Biohacking: From Fringe to Mainstream

One of the most powerful forms of transhumanist practice is the art of biohacking. Biohacking, a citizen science movement focused on optimizing health and well-being, has exploded in recent years, especially among the wealthy and health-conscious. Fueled by wearable technologies, advances in genetic testing and medical sciences, and a growing interest in self-experimentation, biohacking has gone from a niche practice to a multi-billion dollar industry.

The seeds of biohacking were sown in the 1960s with hippie counterculture's embrace of self-experimentation. However, the term itself emerged in the late 2000s from the DIY biology communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Early biohackers conducted simple experiments in makeshift labs, focusing on understanding and manipulating basic biological processes. The rise of affordable wearable trackers and bioprinting tools further fueled the movement, allowing for easier monitoring and experimentation. Social media platforms played a crucial role in fostering a biohacking community for sharing experiences and protocols.

For many of us, the explosion of wearable fitness trackers has been a major driver of biohacking's popularity and our first entry into the field. These devices, from Fitbits to Oura Rings, empower individuals to become active participants in their health journeys by monitoring heart rate, sleep patterns, and activity levels. This data allows users to track progress towards fitness, sleep, and dietary goals and experiment with different lifestyle choices to see their impact. Gamified self-quantification, fueled by readily available data and user-friendly apps, has made biohacking accessible to a broader audience beyond tech and health enthusiasts.

Sleep optimization has become a cornerstone of biohacking. Pioneering wearable companies popularized sleep tracking, allowing users to identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach resonated with biohackers seeking to optimize every aspect of their health. Light therapy lamps, designed to mimic natural sunlight and regulate sleep cycles, are another popular tool.

Biohacking extends far beyond sleep optimization, including many aspects of everyone’s everyday lives. Here are a few other popular areas:

  • Exercise Hacking: This approach focuses on efficient and impactful workouts, emphasizing maximizing results in minimal time. If you’ve ever done a HIIT workout at the gym, you’ve hacked your fitness!
  • Dietary Biohacking: This involves personalized diets and nutritional strategies to target specific health goals. For example, I have an amazing smoothie recipe I’ll share soon that helps me maintain my nutritional balance.
  • Nootropics and Supplements: Many biohackers use nootropics and supplements like caffeine, L-theanine, and Lion's Mane mushroom to enhance cognitive function.

But a growing niche of technologies and treatments caters to the wealthy, venturing into the realm of extreme DIY biohacking. This exclusive world revolves around personalized medicine, cutting-edge technology, and luxury experiences. Some examples include:

  • Personalized Medicine: Companies offer comprehensive genetic testing, microbiome analysis, and advanced blood tests to provide personalized roadmaps to health and longevity. These analyses, often costing tens of thousands of dollars, inform personalized diets, supplement regimens, and even potential interventions based on individual genetic predispositions.
  • Cold Exposure Therapy: The Wim Hof Method, combining breathing exercises and cold exposure, has gained popularity for its potential benefits in managing inflammation, boosting energy levels, and enhancing cognitive function. Cryotherapy chambers and at-home cold therapy options cater to this trend.
  • Sensory Deprivation Tanks: These soundproof, lightless pods filled with Epsom salt water allow for deep relaxation and sensory isolation.
  • IV Therapies and Peptides: Infusions of stem-cells, peptides, and vitamins injected into the veins, fat, or muscle tissue used to enhance healing, fat-loss, and muscle growth have become increasingly popular treatments at exorbitant costs.

But while biohacking has yielded benefits like sleep tracking and exercise hacking, the movement faces a stark accessibility gap. Many preventative medicines used for biohacking, quality of life improvement, and longevity remain prohibitively expensive. This raises critical questions about equitable access and the need for increased research and development to bring biohacking to a broader population. Responsible biohacking practices are also crucial, so that we minimize harm in the process of trying to improve one’s health. Ultimately, the future of biohacking hinges on addressing these challenges and navigating the ethical and societal implications of rapidly evolving technologies.

Want to Learn More?

I have so much more I want to break down about transhumanism and biohacking, but I’ll save that for another newsletter! But please, reach out and let me know what you’d like to hear more about! And check out these resources below, to learn more about transhumanism, biohacking, and our quest to become the best version of ourselves we can be!

Thank you for joining me on this exploration of biohacking, ethics, and the importance of the growing transhumanist movement. I've covered a lot of ground, from the citizen science roots to the cutting-edge practices of today. If you're curious to learn more about transhumanism and the future of human potential, I encourage you to delve deeper! Biohacking itself doesn't require expensive equipment or extreme measures. You can start by embracing fitness trackers and health apps to gain insights into your body's data. Prioritize quality sleep and explore eating habits that resonate with you. Remember, biohacking is all about taking charge of your health and optimizing your well-being. Stay tuned for next week's newsletter, where we'll dive into the power and potential of systems thinking–another fascinating frontier in human enhancement.

Finally, each month I hope to publish answers to questions you may have, but feel uncomfortable asking with your name on it. If this sounds like you, please drop me a question anonymously here, and stay subscribed for the answers!

Milan Kordestani