The term ‘hacker’ has its origins in computer programming subcultures from the ‘60s, and was used to describe people who wanted to take on hard problems in a spirit of playful exploration and a resistance to ‘unearned’ authority. Although the methods, means and intentions of hackers varied widely, all seemed to share a unique ethos that mixed a deep commitment to individual autonomy and agency with an equally deep commitment to collaboration and co-creation.
Over time, the concept of hacking has traveled far from its origins, finding its way into a number of domains like Biohacking, Consciousness Hacking, Flow Hacking and Life Hacking. Each is a kind of hacking because each shares this ‘hacker’s ethos’ and a commitment to using it to find the most effective ways to optimize the human experience.
We call the common thread that links these hacking communities together, ‘empowered responsibility.’ This notion expresses the dual recognition that we are no longer able to rely on external authorities to take care of us (in any domain) but through a combination of ubiquitous information, individual experimentation and open collaboration, we are increasingly empowered to take responsibility for ourselves.
In the biohacking community, the spirit of empowered responsibility drives the process of optimizing one’s biological health and performance. Biohackers learn from each other how they can modify their nutrition, exercise, sleep, movement, and mindset to achieve the specific kind of well-being that they individually desire.
Emerging from within and alongside these movements, we are observing the coalescence of a new and important domain: Neurohacking.
Whereas biohacking concentrates on the body, and consciousness hacking explores the inner experience, neurohacking is somewhere in the middle, focusing on the mind-brain interface - the intersection of neurology and consciousness. Specifically, neurohacking is the art and science of upgrading the mind, brain, and body, for more optimal conscious experiences and capacities.
Neurohacking is the art and science of upgrading the mind, brain, and body, for more optimal conscious experiences and capacities.
The desired outcomes of neurohacking cover everything from focused productivity, to expanded creativity, more restful sleep, reduced anxiety, enhanced empathy, and anything else that contributes to the psychological well-being and emotional health of whole, thriving human beings.
The technologies of neurohacking run the gamut from chemical technologies like nootropics and psychedelics, to supporting the gut-brain connection and bioelectrical technologies such as neurofeedback. Even embodied practices like somatics and meditation can be defined as neurohacking. So long as there is a scientifically accessible biological mechanism for effecting subjective experience, it belongs in the domain of neurohacking.
The best part about neurohacking, is that the vast majority of recommended methods can be done with relative ease, and at its core, simplified to the supporting of four foundational quadrants: mind care, body care, relationships, and environment.
A core concept in supporting these quadrants is balance. You must achieve and maintain the foundations in all four quadrants before success in any quadrant becomes sustainable. All human beings have a finite amount of energy to exert towards their well-being. Exerting your energy in equal balance, within the four quadrants’, will slowly expand the net capacity of your overall energy and bandwidth.
With that in mind, let’s explore each of the four quadrants, whose framework and principles were pioneered by philosophers Jurgen Habermas and Ken Wilber.
The Four Foundational Quadrants of Neurohacking
The mind care quadrant includes ways you can upgrade your mental wellness through practices and interventions that consciously discipline the quality of your thinking itself. This includes practices such as: meditation, gratitude, writing, playing a musical instrument, or for a less common example, neuro linguistic programming. Our sense of reality is operating within the subjective experience of self. Neurohacking the mind occurs through subjective channels, which can be assisted by any number of objective methods. Here are a few examples:
- Internal reflection
- Creative expression
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Neurolinguistic programming
The body care quadrant involves physical practices and interventions which primarily affect conscious experience via physiological pathways, thus priming physical conditions for optimal mental experience. This quadrant is made up of such things as: getting proper sleep, good nutrition, as well as exercise and movement practices. Also included are more cutting-edge body hacks such as nootropic supplements, transcranial stimulation devices, and biofeedback. Attention paid to this quadrant lays the foundation to have the energy, focus, and general health for peak performance.
Humans were built to form pair bonds. We are social creatures. Our experiences and behaviors are affected by the company we keep more than by any other factor. From the microbiome cloud we share, which affects everything from our genetics to our immune system, to the mirror neuron effects that literally change our neural networks in order to find resonance with the people around us, we share literal inexorable links to the people in our lives. The aphorism that we are “the average of the five people we spend the most time with” is borne out of fundamental truths. If you are not consciously tending to the quality of your relationships, you are not yet seriously neurohacking. Listed below are six core concepts found within this quadrant.
- Company you keep
- Company you give
- Time without company
- Communication training
- Studying human behavior sciences
- Attachment theory education
This quadrant accounts for all of the aspects in our daily experience beyond care of body, mind, and direct sentient relationships. These examples include: our air quality, our sleeping conditions, the lighting in our homes, our attention to the aesthetics of our home’s interior design, and how commonly or uncommonly we engross ourselves in appealing landscapes and wilderness. Fellow neurohacker, Jason Silva, talks about these very issues in addressing the subject of ontologic design.
While taking care of body, mind, and relationships, you can backdrop the potential of that care with environments prioritizing relative safety and aesthetic beauty, so your immediate environment works to positively enhance other forms of care. Here are a few of the technologies that fall under the environment quadrant.
- Air quality
- Sleeping conditions
- High quality bedding
- E.M.F. shields
- Restorative travel
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. In order to optimize our well-being we must support four foundational quadrants: mind care, body care, relationships, and environment. By using this integrative framework our time on earth can consistently experience beauty and happiness, from which we can offer our greatest contribution in return.
We need help. We need Neurohacking.