science of us

What Is the Point of Biohacking?

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty Images

Sometimes during my exercise class I wonder, why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for, and what am I achieving? “Health” is the sort of vague answer, but what is the purpose of health? To better serve others? To be a better spouse/parent/friend/worker? To make more money, to impress strangers?

I thought of this while reading the recent and kind of astounding Men’s Health profile of biohacker and Bulletproof Coffee founder Dave Asprey. Asprey is largely responsible for the butter-coffee trend, although he’s also now a podcaster, author, and all-over-the-place longevity and health experimenter. Asprey, who is 45, often says he expects to live to be 180, and the Men’s Health story opens with a summary of some of his recent attempted biohacks/experiments, which include having stem cells that been harvested from his own hip bone marrow injected into his spine, face, scalp, and genitals.

Biohacking is a catchall term for various do-it-yourself health-improvement endeavors, from cutting carbs and fasting, to gene editing and wearing implantable magnets. Going to exercise class and eating organic are arguably also their own kind of basic biohacks. In an infographic on his site, Asprey defines biohacking as “using science, biology, and self-experimentation to take control of and upgrade your body, your mind, and your life,” as well as “the art and science of becoming superhuman.” The Men’s Health writer, Rachel Monroe, notes: “So far, Asprey says he’s spent at least a million dollars hacking his own biology, and making it to 2153 will certainly take several million more.”

Maybe this is too personal a question, or maybe it’s a question without a real answer, but I wonder what Asprey, who, as Men’s Health reveals, also has a cryotherapy chamber and an infrared-light bed in his home office, would say he wants to do with extra decades of health. Maybe it’s not so much a question for Asprey as it is a question for myself, or anyone. What are we doing? And why? Am I afraid of death? Of aging? Am I avoiding the present, always thinking of how good it’s going to be, soon? Is it because I have no spiritual religion? Do I need more collagen?

Asprey’s talk of living to 180 reminds me of the New York Times article about the health and longevity researchers who died relatively young. In any case, as I write this, I’m lancing my own finger to measure my blood sugar with a glucometer, for reasons that also partially escape me, since I’m not diabetic. But I want to know, and what if I could be doing something better so that later I could … never die? Never experience pain?

So: What is the purpose of life? Also: Can you make bulletproof coffee with olive oil? I guess so.

What Is the Point of Biohacking?