Neurohacking is timely

In many ways, our contemporary technical prowess works against us. Yes, we have access to a level of information that would have seemed like pure magic to folks even a few centuries ago. But this doesn’t come for free – our always on connected info lifestyle immerses us in a barrage of demands on our attention and processing power. Even at their best, our poor hominid brains are overwhelmed by the pings and buzzes of social media.

And we are not positioning ourselves to be at our best. Consider, for example, simple nutrition. For hundreds of thousands of years, our tool using hunter-gatherer ancestors had access to food that provided a huge diversity of nutrients from topsoil that was robust and healthy and part of a whole, complex biologic system, without really any toxicity in the environment. These days most of our food is produced, processed and transported in a in a complex soup of chemistry that we don’t come close to fully understanding. And even if we eat the healthiest food, which most of us don’t even come close to, even the very healthiest food is grown in minerally-depleted soil that leaves our needs unmet.

Or consider pollution and our toxic environment. We spend much of our time indoors, not getting enough vitamin D and breathing in a host of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from all of our modern building materials. The average mother has 136 petrochemicals in her breastmilk in the United States, those chemicals are carcinogens and neurotoxins and we’re seeing these kinds of things continue to proliferate.

So we’ve got a situation where we need more capability than we’ve ever had, and we have more going against us physiologically than we’ve ever had. We need help. We need Neurohacking.

Neurohacking is meaningful

It is easy to understand why cognitive enhancement is useful. Not too hard to get a handle on why cognitive enhancement is important. But, why is cognitive enhancement meaningful?

To understand our perspective on this, we have to take a look at a bigger picture. For all of our evolutionary history until very recently, we lived in relatively small geographic areas with a relatively small number of people, and our technological / industrial capability could only affect a relatively small amount of our world.

We evolved to be able to process those kinds of things. For example, there is something called “The Dunbar Number” that reflects what appears to be the fact that our primate brain is only able to process unique relationships is in the vicinity of 150 people. We evolved to live in bands and small tribes – and when we have to deal with more people than that, we are out of our element.

What this means is that we broadly seem to be limited to having empathy for people that we actually see and taking responsibility for things where we can actually see the effects. But where the consequences of our actions are distant – like where we can make purchases and then throw stuff out, or we don’t see the open pit mine where the stuff came from, or the landfill that it goes to, then we struggle to connect the dots.

So in our modern world where many issues have profound complexity between many different financial interests and nation-states and cultures, to even be able to sort out what adequate solutions look like requires that we really level-up our capacity. It requires the ability to be able to care about more than we ever did, and to be able to increase our problem-solving and cognitive capability, also to increase our emotional resilience that we remain undaunted by a constant flow of news coming in showing the enormous challenges we face all around the world. The world is more complex, more interconnected, the problems are bigger, they’re harder, and that means the people doing the problem-solving have to have capabilities that are commensurate with the scope and magnitude of the problems.