As a working research biologist (micro/molecular biology)I can’t say that I have no built in biases on this topic. I also recognize that many actual practicing research scientists from various fields including the biological sciences have used the term and/or consider themselves members of this movement. Because of those two facts I will leave out any discussion of the negative consequences and potentially dangerous ramifications of “biohacking” (This will be the last time I use quotation marks around the term though if I were not so lazy I would use them every time it appeared in the text). I will even allow that it may be possible that the potentially positive outcomes are so large that it is worth any associated hypothetical risks. Therefore, though the subtitle of this article would suggest otherwise, I am only going to focus on a single thing that is wrong with biohacking. Unfortunately, this one single thing is so bad, so very, very awful, so cataclysmically terrible that almost no amount of positive outcomes could cause me to change my mind and support biohacking and the biohackers movement. Though as you will soon read gaining my support will only require one relatively minor (or perhaps major depending on your point of view) adjustment.
The main problem I have with biohacking is the term itself. The name implies something which I will never concede, and can’t see how any actual biologist could either, and that is that a biological life form can be programmed somehow like a computer. After all that’s what hacking is all about isn’t it, busting into or out of various programs using other programs designed/coded by the hacker or other hackers for that very purpose. I know that many biohackers will reply that that is not at all what they mean by the term. That really it has nothing to do with computers or the technology industry/sector. The term just evolved out of the common lingo of the people involved in the movement. All of that may be true but none of it matters. For everyone else, aka the vast, vast majority of people alive on the planet currently, it means hacking as in computer hacking and it implies that a biological being is at base equivalent to a computer, can be programmed, and thus can be hacked. Much like the term artificial intelligence which the technorati all know to be nothing more than modern computing and not intelligence, everyone else believes it to mean what they have always held it to mean. They believe that their phones or homes are truly smart, that computers and machines exist that are truly the equivalent or close cousins of their very children and babies.
The damage from the widespread adoption of this way of thinking about biological beings and computers/machines has only begun to be felt and will probably get much worse before it gets better. Cognitive neuroscience may never recover from incorporating this philosophical position (and it is a philosophical position, not one based in facts or evidence) into their everyday way of thinking about the world and our place in it. I do not want to see other biological sciences make the same mistakes they did. Do not use this term or endorse it in any way. Feel free to actually practice the beliefs of the biohackists all you like. Assuming it is done with the appropriate health and safety precautions and controls in place I am happy to cheer lead and encourage others to contribute. However, don’t call yourself a biohacker or say that biohacking is a legitimate thing because it is not and the probability is high that it never can be.