Every year in California’s Tehachapi Mountains, a group of risk-friendly technology enthusiasts meet for Grindfest. The small weekend gathering is an event for grinders, an anti-establishment subculture that has taken a keen interest in advancing humanity via technology. According to biohack.me, “Grinders practice functional extreme body modification in an effort to improve the human condition.” If you have a fascination with cognitive enhancement, fitness tracking, anti-aging programs, or any other way to optimize the human body, don't call yourself a grinder just yet; this isn’t for the faint of heart. This movement is all about extreme action and undergoing procedures to implant tech devices inside the body.
The path to becoming a cyborg is littered with scalpels, scars, sterilizers, and things generally not approved by the FDA. Such is life on the fringe. Taking action is their ethos, and blood is just a by-product of their love for what they do. What this group of hardcore biohackers practice is akin to body modification and piercing. From the outside, it looks like they are involved in some kind of medical procedure, but since that is legally problematic, they make sure to clarify that it is not medicine or surgery.
For grinders, magnetic implants and radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are often the first steps into the world of biohacking. Magnets can do all sorts of neat things, like turning on the lights in a room and unlocking your car door without the key. One of the more interesting use cases I've seen is the magnetic implant inside the ear, which can function as headphones. An implanted magnet can also be used to switch on another implant, such as an LED light underneath the skin.
Magnets can also be inserted to allow you to feel electromagnetic forces in the environment. For instance, if a cell phone goes off or a microwave is being used, you could feel a little buzz in your finger. It essentially opens up the invisible world of magnetic fields for your perception. This technology is more of a party trick at the moment, but down the road there may be use cases for magnetic implants that prove it is more than just a gimmick.
Biohacking goes much deeper than magnets and RFID. Some of the goals are quite lofty, and some may not even be achievable, but that isn’t going to stop anyone from trying. Here is a brief selection of some of the many interesting projects:
- Elon Musk has invested in hardware that is geared towards developing a brain-computer interface that could enable telepathy and prevent memory loss. This device would have to be implanted underneath the skull, so clearly, it’s a very ambitious project.
- A start-up called Ambrosia is injecting people with the blood plasma from young people. The goal here is to develop an anti-aging therapy.
- A group called Livestock Labs is working on a sensor that can predict diseases in cattle. If successful, it could perhaps be customized for use in humans.
Traditional scientists and researchers tend to dismiss this group of medical punks, but maybe it's only because they feel threatened. Research that would take a university professor years to get approved and funded can happen much faster in an unregulated community of diehard volunteers. There are enough people out there with a high-risk tolerance willing to participate in these types of experimental procedures, making rapid technological advances possible. The key here is high risk — people have died, so please, if you ever get the itch to join forces with a grinder faction, beware of the possible consequences. This is uncharted territory, which is both very exciting and extremely dangerous.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.