#117: Kara Platoni’s “We Have the Technology”

February 27, 2016

Do we have the technology?

According to science writer and recent book author Kara Platoni, the answer is yes, we most certainly do have the technology.

In Episode #117, Jesse speaks with Platoni as she describes her year-long sabbatical traveling the Western World (and making Skype calls to pretty much everyplace else) to chase down over 100 interviews with biohackers of all sorts, learning where the cutting edge lies — sometimes literally — in applying technology to the extension of human perceptual abilities.

The result of these interviews and more than a few “biohacker ride-alongs” that Platoni participated in is her book We Have the Technology, published in December of 2015.

Slicing Biohackers Down the Middle.

Platoni identifies two main groups in the current biohacker world.  They’re not so much the Democrats and Republicans of biohacking, because they’re not opposed to one another, but they’re more like big industry and hometown specialists.

On the one side are major medical researchers in academia or for-profit industry, with their work largely focused on improving quality of life for people with injuries, congenital disease, or suffering the travails of old age.  These scientists tend to be well-funded, conservative in their aims, and prefer terms other than “biohacker” when asked about what they do.

And then there’s the other guys — called “Grinders” — a futurist, do-it-yourself’er, fiction-inspired “Maker’s Movement” crowd exemplified by groups like Grindhouse Wetware.  This subset takes their stylistic queues from piercing shops, tattoo parlors and custom auto mechanics — combining skills in electrical circuitry and biology to leap past “wearable” technology straight into integrated doodads.

(Examples?  How about an LED compass that lives in your hand, or under-the-skin super magnets which allow their owner to “feel” magnetic fields after a few months of brain plasticity and practice.)

Platoni’s book skates among these various groups and their overlapping styles and interests, looking at what’s here now and what’s coming next.

And Platoni herself proves to be not only an engaging writer but also a spirited conversationalist.  Listen in to hear the whole discussion.

PS:  Are you a bona fide bookworm?  You’re not alone.  Jesse reads a ton and often times riffs in longer form in the Brain Breakfast newsletter on the things he’s reading to overstuff his hippocampus.  Subscribe to join in.

Show Notes
  • 00:00:23

    Introduction to author Kara Platoni

  • 00:01:39

    This Week In Neuroscience: Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains

  • 00:05:52

    The audience interaction section

  • 00:08:03

    How do grinders get fitted with their internal devices?

  • 00:08:33

    We Have the Technology by Kara Platoni

  • 00:09:25

    Kara's worldwide adventure while researching for her book

  • 00:11:22

    Where is personal modification technology heading in the near future?

  • 00:12:40

    The ethical implications of assistive technology and how we change our own bodies could affect future generations

  • 00:15:56

    Grinders: "The electrical engineering arm of the biohacker world"

  • 00:21:26

    Smart bodies, chemical sensing, and the issue of surveillance

  • 00:24:22

    How societal expectations affect the reception of assistive technologies

  • 00:26:36

    Kara's personal view on personal augmentation

  • 00:27:36

    The link between sense of smell and cognitive decline

  • 00:32:00

    When might physical alterations surpass our original body parts?

  • 00:33:23

    The first retinal implant

  • 00:37:34

    When it might be useful to use assistive technology that could affect a person's sense of identity? At what point might augmented reality and wearable tech become frightening?

  • 00:44:48

    Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: Functional human body parts built using 3D-bioprinting technique.

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