I'm writing something for the new year n' stuff, just too busy to actually finish it. This was originally printed in the Winter edition of 2600. I highly encourage you to buy at least 1 copy to see how it is - they're a really good zine


In the vast realm of hacking and technology, lies a magnificent field. That of biohacking. While the term may conjure up images of techno-thrillers and Snow Crash, I assure you, it is a real field, that encompasses an intersection of biology, technology, and most importantly, hacking! Biohacking is, to put it short and concise, applying the hacker ethos to biology, and sidestepping the normal way of doing biology in the process. In this article, we'll delve into the world of biohacking.


One of the most fascinating, and important, aspects of biohacking, is its thriving community of DIY labs, where, instead of having large universities or for-profit companies as the driving factor of progress, biohacking tends to be driven by small, community-led, indie labs, democratizing access to biological research, so that the normal person can try getting their hands dirty. These DIY labs have expanded all around the world, from NYC to San Francisco to Brussels to Budapest to Paris to Bangkok to Singapore to Tokyo, you get the idea! Before these community-led labs, biology research was only open to a small cluster of professionals, and now, thanks to biohacking, it's open to everyone!

Just like hacking, the ethos of openness and knowledge sharing is central to biohacking. Biohackers, like normal hackers, are driven by curiosity and passion for biohacking, and as such believe in the democratization of scientific tools needed for this, primarily through the aforementioned indie labs. In line with this philosophy, many biohacking labs offer workshops and programs. These initiatives provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds, who may not be able to really do any biology work on their own (eg. someone may be priced out of academia, or need to look after aging family members), really anyone who wants to learn, learn about the latest advancements in biology, acquire hands on skills, and collaborate on innovative biohacking projects.


When someone thinks of the term "biohacking", one of the first things that tends to come to mind is gene editing. Gene editing is a stunning, fairly recent invention, with CRISPR, the main driving force behind gene editing, having its discovery kickstarted from 1993-2005, and its gene editing usage being discovered, or more accurately, invented, by Cong et al. [1] at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

CRISPR works, in short, essentially by cutting out a gene, and modifying its repair mechanism, in a truly fascinating process, which I don't have space to explain here. CRISPR has two possible results, both of which are beneficial when trying to study a gene. The first possible outcome, is the gene is "knocked out", which means that there is an error in the DNA, not necessarily the As or Ts or anything mixed up, but rather a physical problem, and in this case, the cell can not use the DNA, it is as if part of a disk is corrupted. These knock out genes are useful for scientists, as seeing what happens without something is very important for reverse engineering a cell. The other possible outcome, is replacement of a portion of the DNA with another part of DNA. This is significant for the fairly obvious reason of being able to make the cell do something it wouldn't normally do. This also has some highly important aspects, such as being able to prevent hereditary gene-based diseases (like Werner Syndrome).


These people, grinders, captivate me through what they do. A grinder is a biohacker, who uses body implants to become a literal cyborg, to transcend the limits of a normal mere mortal. The functioning of grinders, as in the ability for the human body to be OK with what they do, I find wild. An example of what they do, is implant RFID chips inside of their bodies, like in their hands [2]. Imagine breaking into a building with a cloned RFID chip in your hand, or how easy cloning an RFID card would be if your hand would just "slip", without anything special in it.

Another aspect of grinders is neural implants. While few of these actually exist, with the main closest relative being prosthetic limbs which use electrical signals from neurons to determine how to move themselves. However, recently, we are seeing a massive uptick in the capabilities of neural implants, such as neuralink, whose brain chips are expected to have clinical trials soon [3] (However a lot of the monkey subjects did die, but I personally do trust the FDA, so while I'm NOT going to use one, I think it may not be as bad as it sounds).


Because of all this growth in biohacking, especially because of grinders, whose trade is starting to takeoff soon, biosecurity is starting to become an important topic. Biosecurity is, as the name describes, cybersecurity but for biological devices. This has been popular, and at least commonly heard about for a while now, with notable hacker Barnaby Jack doing presentations on some of the more important parts of biosecurity, such as pacemakers and insulin pumps. Biosecurity is becoming even more important in recent times however, due to smart technology starting to make its way into medical devices, along with the previously mentioned newly formed brain chips, biosecurity is really going to start getting important. We don't want brain ransomware, do we?

Another section of biosecurity, one which, from what I have seen, gets more attention than the previously mentioned parts of biosecurity, even though it doesn't deserve more attention, and is very hyped up, is engineered pandemics. While engineered pandemics are a problem, most of the suggestions people have on how the prevent engineered pandemics tend to be about regulating, primarily intranationally (i.e. preventing citizens from doing it). This solution to engineered pandemics is not going to work, because of the same reason that engineered pandemics are over hyped, which is that engineering a virus, or bacteria, is extremely difficult. You have all the difficulties with culturing viruses, but then adding genetic engineering for increased infectiousness, makes it something that an indie biohacker, which is mainly what this article has been about, can't feasibly do.


The following are some resources to learn more about, and get involved in, biohacking:

On DIYBio local lab section, if you find your local biohacking lab, you should check if they do courses or programs, and if they don't remember you can always ask through an email or DM, and most likely the person on the other end, the other biohacker, would be more than glad to help a fledgling biohacker find their wings.

For learning about biology in general, I suggest:


In a short conclusion, biohackers are essentially people who apply the hacker ethos to biology, in order to try to, like hackers, create a better world. They use indie labs, fascinating science, and body modifications as some of the, but not all of the, means to their end of a, once again, better world. They also run numerous small, community-led labs, which I encourage you to get involved in.

Thanks for reading, and don't stop hacking!

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23287718/

[2] https://dangerousthings.com/product/next/

[3] https://www.reuters.com/science/elon-musks-neuralink-gets-us-fda-approval-human-clinical-study-brain-implants-2023-05-25/

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