FEATURE5 March 2018

Working fast: how entrepreneurs are hacking themselves

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The trend for quantifying the self is being taken one step further in California’s Silicon Valley, where tech’s disruptors are taking extreme steps to boost productivity and cognitive function. Katie McQuater reports.

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Silicon Valley, the home of tech disruption and birthplace of Facebook, Uber and Airbnb, is full of people who want to optimise, adapt and reinvent processes and industries. Now, biohacking – the practice of manipulating your body’s biology to aid performance – is gaining traction there. It seems unsurprising; if your life revolves around optimisation, it follows that this might also extend to the human body and brain.

Biohacking is taking two distinct forms in the Valley: extreme fasting, when a person refrains from eating for up to 60 hours; and the use of ‘brain drugs’ – or mind enhancers – to boost memory and cognitive performance. Both have proponents in search of a means to rewire their body’s physiological and neurological systems to prime them for productivity. 

Self-improvement isn’t a new phenomenon. People have been fasting for years for weight loss, while drugs such as modafinil have been used by some to boost concentration. However, ...