What is Biohacking? From Bodybuilding to Bacterial Shoes

Biohacking is SO many things! In this episode Angelica and Bey talk to two people on each end of the biohacking spectrum: biodesigner Ricky Solorzano and bodybuilder Scott Shunk. Later in the episode, our favorite chief bioscientist Dr. Jayatri Das is back!

Transcript
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Hello and welcome to So Curious!, presented by the Franklin Institute.

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In this season, Human 2.0, we will be talking to scientists and non-scientists

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alike about technology, innovation, and the human experience.

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We're your hosts.

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I'm Angelica Pasquini.

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And I'm the Bul Bey.

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But you could just call me Bey.

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On today's episode, we're going to be talking about biohacking with bioengineer

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Ricky Solorzano and physique athlete Scott Shunk.

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Hacking the human experience

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is so funny to me, inherently, just the concept, it's comical.

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I mean, I guess it's been happening forever.

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People are like, "how do I..alright I've been doing this, this one

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way..?" It's human nature to want to figure out a faster route from A to B.

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That's what I always think about with hacking.

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How can I more quickly get what I want?

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Isn't that a classic question? Yeah.

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I think we all want to try to get to our destinations.

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And I think some of the people we'll be

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talking to, and some people in the world, I think they revel in the process

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and they are just trying to really make it as efficient...

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I think they have a bit of a long-term perspective, a long game at play.

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But yeah, we all want to cut those corners and be efficient.

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So, Angelica, what do you think biohacking is?

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It's a huge umbrella term. Yeah.

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Let's just start with the most far out one that scares everyone for fun.

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So it's that people turn themselves into

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cyborgs by embedding magnets, chips, computers, under their skin.

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So it's like people who want to put a little chip in their hand and then wave

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their hand across something and then get accessibility into a door.

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That's biohacking.

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Now, that's a no for me, dog.

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But I also think biohacking can be as

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simple as making bread by using cells to do so.

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I know that that's like a growing field in

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biohacking and then obviously biohacking your body, biohacking your sleep.

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In meditation, people are using these

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devices now that can actually show you when your nervous system is the calmest.

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And then that way you are in a sort of

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like a Theta space so that you could have a deeper meditation.

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Yes.

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And I know we're going to be talking to people in the active athletic space.

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I've been in gyms and I've seen people

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sniff something right before they lift a piece of weight.

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And I'm like, I don't know what that is.

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Is that some kind of like chemical accelerant or something like that?

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What is it?

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If I saw somebody with a bunch of weight in front of them and they had to put

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something up their nose in order to lift it up, I would assume...

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This isn't something you need to do.

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This isn't something that you need to do! Right.

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Because if you have to sniff something up your nose, carry a bunch of weight around,

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just go do something that your body wants to do instead.

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Right. That's my opinion.

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Try the treadmill, maybe.

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Yeah. The elliptical...

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We've got a great lineup for today's episode.

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So let's kick off things with our first guest.

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Our first guest is Scott Shunk.

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Scott Schunk is a physique athlete and a model.

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Scott has perfected his own body down to a science and helps others do the same as a

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fitness and nutrition guru, and creator of Body Cult Fitness.

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Before committing himself to his body full-time, Scott worked as a

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consultant and was director of the Visualizing Cultures Project at MIT.

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Hi, Scott, can you introduce yourself?

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Hi, I'm Scott Shunk.

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I'm sort of a fitness and wellness guy, a

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bit of an Instagram and social media presence.

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And what I do is help people stay youthful and invigorated in their lives.

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So we want to ask you about your bodybuilding journey.

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If you just want to give us like a synopsis of your story.

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I've always been sort of fascinated by fitness and physique training, aesthetics

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in terms of bodybuilding and modeling, and these types of things.

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And I saw this series of photos called

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"Fred With Tires" that Herb Ritts had done.

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Simultaneously, that was when the Calvin

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Klein first underwear ad came out, the classic 80s underwear ad.

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What really was interesting in the 80s was gay men really sort of embraced the body

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and the physique that I found to be most fascinating.

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So growing up and seeing all these sort of these incredibly fit young men in

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Greenwich Village, along with the photographic and artistic representations

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that Herb Ritts had done, and then the modeling, what was

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working in advertising, it really led me at age 13, 14 to know what I wanted to do.

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And then I began my actual fitness journey at about 20.

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And from there, it's been 34, 35 years of fitness: trying to understand

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supplementation, different workout regimens and routines, really being open

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and teachable to a lot of different things, doing a lot of research myself and

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just enmeshing myself in the culture and embracing it fully.

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Sort of what fitness is, and for me as a model (and an old dude model)...

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I love that term, "old dude model."

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Put it on LinkedIn!

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Really looking, keeping my skin really well put together.

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My skin is kind of one of my brands out in the modeling world because I have just a

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very youthful-looking appearance and skin for a guy my age.

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For sure! It's cool to hear.

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So essentially, like when you were a young kid, you had this artistic vision.

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And even I looked up "Fred With Tires."

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It's a beautiful series, and the photography is incredible.

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So it's like an artistic standpoint that you're coming from.

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Absolutely. And that's why when people say

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"bodybuilder," I embraced that term because I'm a bodybuilder.

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But that also is really more associated

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with these big giant guys that are running a lot of performance-enhancing drugs.

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It's a different aesthetic.

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I've always stayed completely natural.

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I've never used performance-enhancing drugs, hormones, what have you.

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I call what I do, I think I'm a "physique athlete" or an "aesthetic athlete."

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Right.

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And Scott, you used to be a research director at MIT, but now you're a physique

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athlete, as you said, a fitness and nutrition coach and a model.

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These seem like two different worlds.

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What prompted you to make this change, and

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do you find any connections between your previous career and what you do now?

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Well, certainly the research component at MIT.

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I always worked in media growing up, and what I did at MIT was to direct a very

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large-scale media project at the Institute.

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Again, physical aesthetics, physique, has always been something I've done since my

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20s when I, through a series of life changes, ended up in Houston.

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The joke that I always tell people is I met a guy at a gala, a

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billionaire, and he was like, "what are you bringing in?" He said,

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[fake Texas accent] "well, son, you can either be smart or pretty here, but you

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can't be both." I guess I chose pretty for the second half of my life.

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[laughter]Oh my God, thank you for that.

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And the accent.

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Appreciate that.

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Doing the best I can.

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What kind of research did you do to start exploring this? And how did you find the

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practices that work for you? What advice would you give someone who's starting to

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train and has a vision for themselves ,sort of like what you do.

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Like anything in life, there's sort of a core series of tenants that will work for

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everyone in terms of embracing a fitness journey.

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And there are really three tenants to what we do in the sport.

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It's training, nutrition and recovery.

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So what I did initially was, like most

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kids, I'm 18, 20 years old when I started, and that was in the 80s and early 90s.

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And we had supplements like Brewer's yeast

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and amino acids, kind of hinky, ("hinky," meaning nonsense)

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Gainers Fuel, just tons of like basically coffee freamer and

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rice carbohydrates in a powder form of protein.

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[sarcastic] Sounds fun.

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So again, it was the beginning of

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understanding how do I enhance what I'm doing in the gym with my nutrition, and

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then the supplementation components and reading a ton of stuff, getting all the

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bodybuilding magazines that were available then, and just trying to understand as

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much as I could about what was I to do, how do I train?

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And it just takes a long time to do that.

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And everyone, when they begin their journey, no matter what age, when I'm

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taking someone in, I'm showing a lot of shortcuts and a lot of shorthand to get

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the results a lot more quickly and rapidly.

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But a lot of it is just really doing the work, getting in the gym, doing basic,

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straightforward, simple but effective exercises.

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You are eating a lot of lean protein.

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That's chicken, that's egg whites, that's

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some protein powders, lean cuts of red meat.

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If that's something you do. I don't eat a lot of red meat.

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You eat a lot of vegetables, clean vegetables, like sort of just raw.

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I eat a lot of raw broccoli, Brussels

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sprouts, beans, green beans, these kinds of things.

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And I don't eat many carbohydrates at all.

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That's kind of where guys like me live.

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That's clean eating.

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That means you're not eating processed foods.

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You're not having a cheat meal once a week.

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There's no alcohol.

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There's a lot of restriction.

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It's a lot of misery.

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And so can the human body be hacked? Are

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there concrete methods to gain concrete results in what you're doing?

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Absolutely. There are a myriad of shortcuts

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and sort of keys to the...I call it the keys to the kingdom.

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And it really has a lot to do with food timing.

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This game is all about hormones.

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And for a guy like me who's completely natural in my 50s,

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still not using any even hormone replacement therapy because that's...

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Guys around 35, 37 start going to the

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testosterone clinics and start just getting injectable testosterone.

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But I just game my hormones to keep my testosterone levels as high as possible.

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My cortisol levels as low as possible.

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My insulin, which is kind of the biggest

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hormone in the game, the most sensitive that I can, all the time.

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And I do that by sleeping eight to nine hours every day, by not

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having an incredibly stressed-out life, which drives my ex-wife to madness.

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And the way I eat.

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And I also use intermittent fasting.

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And I have almost for 35 years, I do intermittent fasting.

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It's interesting what you're saying

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because you're so aware of everything going on with your mind and body.

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It is a science and a lifestyle.

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And earlier I said like a work of art, it

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seems like your life is your work of art that you're curating.

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I'm very curious about endorphins, working out, your mood.

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And are you happy?

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There are days it's absolute misery to get through it.

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If I'm doing a 72-hour fast and I will do a 72-hour fast almost monthly.

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And there's a lot of reasons I do that.

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Autophagy is a term we throw around.

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Immunological resets.

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Also really just kind of cleaning my body up.

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But on those 72 hours, I can get pretty miserable.

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On days that I'm cutting in for a shoot....

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I just got back from Mexico on Tuesday and I had to cut in for a shoot.

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My Thanksgiving was chicken and broccoli,

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where everyone else is sitting there hammering pie.

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And I love pie!

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So there are days when you're hormonally gamed, you're beat up, and what you have

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to work through, or what I tell myself when I'm working with someone...

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I'm like, you need to kind of muscle through that.

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You need to move through that stuff.

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You accept it.

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You sort of put it where it needs to be.

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But you know that you are going for a longer result.

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I sit around 185 pounds. I'm six foot one.

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That's kind of my happy weight.

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I can go down to 181 when I want to be ridiculously, 2% body fat, lean.

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And I can go up to 190 and fluff up and be really buff and still have pretty abs.

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But for about three months a year I like to go up to about 200 to 210 pounds.

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That really gives my body and my mind the break, and it allows me to restart the

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process of chipping away at the "David." Chipping the David out.

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I love that. The artist is present.

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As you say, it is exactly that.

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It is a science and it is an art.

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There is no one way that anyone gets to

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the place they need to get to, and that's why the journey takes ...It should be

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enjoyed and should be looked at as a lifelong process.

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I learned things every year that I didn't know the year previously.

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I'm in better shape today than I was at 50, than I absolutely was at 35.

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I've always been lean.

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I've always been pretty ripped, other than

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the year my first child was born, but I've always kind of kept it together.

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So I learned something every year.

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And now as I age, it's a game of hormones.

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I love that you mentioned that. It looks different for everybody and everybody on

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their own journey individually, how do you use biohacking for your training, and in

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your opinion, what works and what doesn't work?

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The best piece of advice I can offer most

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people is intermittent fasting is the real deal.

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Biohacking is a new term.

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When I was at MIT, we called it life extension, but none of this stuff is new.

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So the biggest thing I can recommend in

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terms of a biohack for anyone is to really experiment with intermittent fasting.

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Start fasting at least 12 hours every day.

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Have your last meal at seven or whatever,

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and then don't eat again until seven or eight the next day.

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That's an easy thing to do for most people.

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The most important hormone you're going to play with in your body is your insulin.

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So what I always preach to people is insulin sensitivity.

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We want our insulin sensitivity as high as possible.

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Why is insulin the most important hormone

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in the body? Why is insulin the most important?

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No, that's an opinion. There, of course.

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Everything, of course, is an opinion! In your opinion, then?

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Yeah, my opinion is it's the most important hormone because it kind of

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governs a lot of the things that are most important to what I do.

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And so when you keep your insulin sensitivity high, as soon as you're

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putting foods into your body, carbohydrates, everything in your body

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runs on glycogen or glucose, carbohydrates, sugar, everything.

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Your body is fueled by blood sugar.

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So if you have tons of food in your system all the time, your body's like, oh, I

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don't need to use this because I've already got a high blood sugar level.

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So I'm going to put this into the storage.

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Here comes more calories.

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They're going to go into storage. Storage.

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Adipose tissue.

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Adipose tissue is a pretty name for fat.

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So by keeping your insulin sensitivity high, as soon as you put foods in your

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body, it's converting that to blood sugar, to energy.

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Right away it's being used.

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It's not in danger of being stored.

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The other big bio hack is to take the

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majority of your calories from protein sources.

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The primary thing I do is make sure that I'm getting 200 grams of protein a day.

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Again, I don't count my calories anymore.

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But when you start in this game, you should, just to begin to understand,

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because eventually you'll just get to where you know what you're doing.

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Once I get the protein in my body, then I

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can decide whether I want faster carbohydrates to encompass the residual

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calories that I need to get through my day.

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But make protein the primary source of

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your calories on any given day, the primary source of your meals, getting your

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carbs and your healthy fats in there as well as needed.

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And you're going to really keep your insulin sensitivity extraordinarily high,

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in addition to doing that, intermittent fast for minimally 12 hours.

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Wow.

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We learned so much. Yes.

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I'm taking it all in my mind.

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I'm like, I got to do a pushup.

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Yeah.

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I love this art form that you've taken on,

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and I think that your body is your work of art, and we really see and respect that.

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It's pretty cool. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Absolutely. It's been my pleasure.

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Reflection time, reflection time. Bodybuilder, huh?

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Yeah.

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I am somebody who has been in the weight room recently.

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So hearing all that was interesting and a little bit intimidating.

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I was like, I don't want to do that.

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I thought it was cool the way that he was

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an artist and his body was his work of art, and that was really his vision.

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And then also how deeply he clearly understood science.

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Hormones, metabolic rate, diet, down to every last calorie.

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Right. I think he was prioritizing hormones.

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I was like, wow, that one is more important than the other one.

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And he talked about the diet and the broccoli and the chicken.

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So biohacking is serious, real and intense.

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And he's someone who's on top of it.

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Well, I'm not sure if I love the social side of it.

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He was like, "this is pretty miserable,"

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but it was insightful, at least. But I still want to go out and have a beer.

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Yeah.

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I dig his honesty.

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There he was straight up like, you know,

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it's really miserable sometimes, but it's what he's clearly passionate about.

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First of all, he looked 30, maybe?

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He had a little glow to him, didn't he?

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Yes, he looked young.

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Yeah, yeah.

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I think he hacked the aging process.

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And I love how he just put a system around it.

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A lot of these things we already know sleep, work out, drink water, but he put a

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system in a regimen that was pretty strict around that.

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And so it's interesting how the body responds to systems, I guess.

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Yeah. And science.

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Straight up science.

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Hi, this is Angelica Pasquini from So Curious!

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Sign up for our newsletter to find out when the latest episodes are available,

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get access to bonus content and be the first to know when we host live events.

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Visit beyond fi.edu to sign up now.

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Literally, go do it right now.

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Okay, let's get into the bio-design side

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of biohacking. Hi, Ricky, can you introduce yourself?

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I'm currently the CEO and co-founder of

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Biorealize, and we are on a mission to make it easier to design with biology.

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Part of that entails being able to empower

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designers, really industrial designers, product designers, architectural

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designers, to understand how to integrate bio-design into their workflows.

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The world of biology is growing every day,

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and there's so much to learn, so much to understand and standards to create.

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And so all this really stems from...

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Consumers are starting to realize that we want to think more consciously about

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sustainability and the products that we buy.

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Right. So we think about, like, how can we buy

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things not just for their usage, but for their entire life cycle? So from start to

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finish, like, okay, we buy something, and then where does it go?

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So it sounds like sustainability is obviously very important to you.

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We're curious about your desire to bring biology and design closer together,

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obviously, through the lens of sustainability.

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Could you expand on what inspired you to

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found Biorealize, and trace your journey for us to where you are today?

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The founding happened some years ago by the co-founders, Karen and Orkin, who were

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professors of bio-design at the University of Pennsylvania.

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And they saw...

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It was really difficult for him to teach

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his design students just about anything about biology.

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Right. And this is about seven to ten years ago.

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And so they set out to start thinking about how to make it easier.

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And part of that, they realized that the tools and the platforms needed standards.

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It needed to become a lot easier to digest.

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Yeah, that's been a running theme in a lot of the conversations we've been having.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

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designing through biology.

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What exactly does that mean?

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The way we feel about it is they're designers and designers when they're

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thinking about it, and when we think about it is like, people using stuff.

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So designers make things that people use, and anything that they make when it

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

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integrates biology, that's what we say is bio-design.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

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Okay.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

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A large part of bio-design today is about using organisms, and more specifically,

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probably, bacteria, using them as a useful tool to be of value to humans.

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Previously, for example, cotton was grown in the fields.

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Right now they are making bacteria that produces cotton in tanks, and that is in a

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more sustainable fashion at a lower cost and better performance.

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That's more sustainable, growing the

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cotton in the tank as opposed to in a field?

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A field, correct. Yeah.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

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It's interesting because the through-line

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through all of learning this week has been that with innovation, now everyone's

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hacking, everyone's biohacking, saving time and energy...

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A lot. Like what you're talking about is

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bio-design, a hack to what is currently and properly available for production.

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It's interesting.

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I think that the big pull is from the sustainability aspect.

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It always starts as a hack. Yeah.

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Because you're just prototyping, you're trying to figure stuff out.

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Everyone sees that biodesign can have an

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impact in terms of having us live a more sustainable life.

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Yeah. But then we have to think about, well, how

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about performance and how about cost? Because then we won't have adoption.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

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Your primary product is the B reactor,

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which is the only portable network smart incubator system on the market. Can you

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explain how it works and all that scientific jargon that I just said?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah, I think the B reactor at its core is just really about helping people who don't

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

have access to biology infrastructure to grow bacteria at the desktop.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And that all goes back to, how do we make

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

it easier, faster, more simple to get into the field?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

A lot of the people that we're trying to serve are in a room just like this one.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And so we want to put an easy device on their table that they can grow bacteria,

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

start doing biology in an easier way and innovate.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah. It's what makes it more accessible.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And so you guys offer tools in brewing, food and beverage, fashion and design.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So this is a pretty wide range.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

I'm curious, what type of goods are you bio-designing that you're really into?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Right now? We actually have three categories,

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

biodegradation, biomineralization, and biosynthesis.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So biodegradation basically...

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Explain

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

...That's about all this stuff that can be decomposted.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Biomineralization is about.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

there are bacteria that can create minerals.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So instead of using, like, glue, you can use minerals to adhere to things together.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Biosynthesis is basically like creating dyes.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

It's a bacteria. It creates something that's useful, like a

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

dye, a pigment, and you can use that for some application of interest.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Could you reflect on the idea of bio-design as an interdisciplinary project

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

and how it changes your understanding of both biology and the arts?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

We love having artists within our community trying to use bacteria or other

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

organisms to make art and as a form of self-expression. It's all about the human

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

taking control over something to make something.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

It's funny because you're featured on the

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

same episode as a bodybuilder, because it's a biohacking episode.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And we're curious about this large spectrum of hacking and biohacking.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And we were just curious if you can speak to the spectrum of biohacking.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

When I think of hacking, I think of it as like, they're the rebels.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

They want to make stuff just because they can.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah! And on that note, you want to expand

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

the accessibility of biofabrication to everyone, right?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

You want to be able to get to more of the good stuff, expanding people to be able to

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

be creative and apply that creativity in useful ways of value to humans.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And do so within a way of understanding what some of the restrictions are.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And a lot of that comes into not so much the tools, but the bacteria.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And that actually is really restricted by

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

the companies that sell or produce those bacteria.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So can you talk about some dream products that you or you would love to see someone

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

else design or create? Like, what do you see in the future?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah, in terms of some of the things that we dream about within the company are

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

consumer-based apparel that could have integrations of biology.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So imagine your sneakers have bacteria that are either cooling you as you walk,

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

or being able to have sneakers that kind of biodegrade over time.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Some of the other things we dream about

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

are having electronics space products that we could throw in our backyard.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Like a cell phone, just like. Yeah, like a cell phone guy.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah, exactly. So I'm kind of done with the lifecycle of

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

this thing, and I wanted to just throw it away.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Instead of throwing it in the garbage, you throw it in your backyard.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

I want to throw it in my backyard. I know.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Let's just biodegrade it all.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

It's so gorgeous as an idea.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Part of that is because there's a lot of people today that do throw away their

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

phones in the garbage, and it's actually not good.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

If we could get to a place where people could just throw it away, even if it's in

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

the garbage, then that's going to be healthier for us.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yes.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

I feel like it's like eliminating people having to do the right thing.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

All right.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

We'll just make it easier to let you throw it out.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So on your website, Ricky, you describe the urgent need to redesign and scale

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

everyday products with biology that are more sustainable and healthier for us and

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

our environment. Can you explain a little bit further the urgency of bio-design and

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

sustainability? Does this need to happen yesterday,

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

some of the ways we're interacting with our world and our environment?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

I think we're more on, like, a 10-20 year urgency that we really need to think about

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

in terms of the amount of plastic in the world, the greenhouse gas emissions.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So all those things in terms of really about....petrochemicals, like the way that

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

we're including petrochemicals into products.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And it's not so much that we use plastic,

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

it's the fact that we continue to produce new plastic.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So it's kind of like, one is about being

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

able to access the plastic that's already in the ground that we've thrown away, or

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

two, it's about creating products that we could just throw away that don't have any

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

plastic or don't have any petrochemicals, more than anything.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Do you notice a shift in quality when you use these materials?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

A lot of people have been able to innovate

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

materials that seem very promising, so they have the same properties to be able

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

to maintain the packaged items and the packaged goods.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

There are some companies that already have

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

been making leaps and bounds in terms of packaging.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

There's a company called Innovative Design that does mushroom-based packaging.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

It's really cool.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Instead of plastics for packaging, things like Dell computers and things like that.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Where do you see room for quicker

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

improvements from the everyday person side of their life, biohacking, their habits,

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

or from the big businesses and corporations that are packaging all these

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

things and shipping it daily and across the planet and things like that? Where is

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

the improvement to be made and where can it be done faster?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

On the consumer side, it's about the mental awareness, like being selective

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

about the sustainability, knowing and thinking conscientiously to look, to

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

double-check. What is the life cycle of this product going to be?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yeah, I certainly don't ask that.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Sometimes I do, if I get a cell phone, how long will I have this?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

It's something like that?

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Maybe it's not obvious today, but maybe it'll be obvious in a year from now.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And just noticing, "I wonder where this is

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

actually going," or how is this being removed back into the world kind of thing.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

So I think from the consumer side, it's more about just mental awareness.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

On the corporation side, they could be

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

making bigger investments in terms of integrating new technologies, new

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

packaging materials, new materials in general, or new processes that are all

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

about thinking about their carbon footprint.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Yes, for real.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

It's kind of both of those coming together in the center, the consumer mental shift

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

and the investments from the corporations on carbon footprint.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And then the third piece is the governments making that slight push.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

We're going to find ourselves going in a better direction, I think.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

I love that. Yeah.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Wow. Thank you so much.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

We learned a lot. Yeah.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Thank you so much.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

It is about that time, Ang, reflection time.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Man. That was fun.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

And I really love the idea of just throwing things into my backyard.

And just to take a step back, bio-design:

:

Me too. I can't wait.

I'm going to throw it all:

throw my bed, throw my shoes [laughter].

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah! The work that he's doing is really interesting, too.

I'm going to throw it all:

And trying to alleviate pressure on

I'm going to throw it all:

consumers so we can just make decisions more streamlined, more clearly.

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah. I mean, what a cool way

I'm going to throw it all:

to innovate with technology that is using our Earth to then

I'm going to throw it all:

become, later, part of our Earth without the human being needing to honestly do all

I'm going to throw it all:

of this life admin around every time you buy something.

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah.

I'm going to throw it all:

People aren't doing it. There's a lot of work.

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah. You might cut that out.

I'm going to throw it all:

Absolutely. We talked about recycling.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right.

I'm going to throw it all:

And there's a number numerical system, one to six.

I'm going to throw it all:

And I don't even know if the city here, or

I'm going to throw it all:

New York, or in other cities, handles all those numbers.

I'm going to throw it all:

No, it doesn't. You really have to know it.

I'm going to throw it all:

And so I appreciate the idea of having less pressure on us.

I'm going to throw it all:

Okay, let's finish strong.

I'm going to throw it all:

On this episode, we are bringing back our recurring segment today, Body of

I'm going to throw it all:

Knowledge, with Chief Bioscientist at the Franklin Institute, Dr.

I'm going to throw it all:

Jayatri Das.

I'm going to throw it all:

In this segment, we are going to ask some questions and talk about the ideas about

I'm going to throw it all:

biohacking, in kind of an open-forum style.

I'm going to throw it all:

Then we are going to take to the Internet

I'm going to throw it all:

and see what people on Google are searching for.

I'm going to throw it all:

Welcome, Jayatri.

I'm going to throw it all:

On this episode, we're going to be talking about biohacking.

I'm going to throw it all:

And I would love to just get some brief reflections from you.

I'm going to throw it all:

So I think what's really interesting about biohacking is that there are different

I'm going to throw it all:

ways that we think about what that word means.

I'm going to throw it all:

And we've heard

I'm going to throw it all:

two very different examples of how people think about biohacking.

I'm going to throw it all:

So if I were to try and find, what is that common theme?

I'm going to throw it all:

It's this idea that we can look at the tools that nature has made

I'm going to throw it all:

for ourselves, for the way that our bodies work, for the way that living things in

I'm going to throw it all:

nature work, and think about how we use those tools for different purposes. Right.

I'm going to throw it all:

So we think about manufacturing other things, like fabric,

I'm going to throw it all:

or art, and things like that using biological tools.

I'm going to throw it all:

But we can also think about, okay, how can

I'm going to throw it all:

we optimize these biological tools to make ourselves better?

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. When I hear biohacking, the word "hacking"

I'm going to throw it all:

jumps off to me, and I guess that suggests that something is not going the way you

I'm going to throw it all:

want it to go or something's going awry and you're trying to fix it.

I'm going to throw it all:

But I never think about my body in any way

I'm going to throw it all:

where it's like, oh, this isn't going right...

I'm going to throw it all:

Unless I get out of bed and my shoulder's

I'm going to throw it all:

cracking or something like that, I'm like, "what's going on with that?"

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah. I generally like the way I'm functioning.

I'm going to throw it all:

That's good. That's a blessing.

I'm going to throw it all:

I think the hacking, too, is very much like, how do I make a shortcut?

I'm going to throw it all:

How do I get an advancement?

I'm going to throw it all:

How do I... you know, life hacks are often

I'm going to throw it all:

just things that are very simple ideas, like a shortcut, a way to skip over

I'm going to throw it all:

something that might be taking too much time or effort.

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah. No, I think both of those are really good

I'm going to throw it all:

perceptions of how we think about this idea of hacking.

I'm going to throw it all:

And when we apply it to biology,

I'm going to throw it all:

it's this idea that we don't have to just sit back and watch anymore.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right.

I'm going to throw it all:

We now understand how biology works in such a way that we

I'm going to throw it all:

can use it for shortcuts or we can use it to think about how do we not just

I'm going to throw it all:

stay comfortable with who we are and have to accept that, but actually be proactive

I'm going to throw it all:

about building yourself into something else that you might want to be.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right! I love the idea of bodybuilding

I'm going to throw it all:

because I've always been a little skinny kid, especially growing up.

I'm going to throw it all:

And so the idea of taking supplements and

I'm going to throw it all:

meal prepping and having a bunch of chicken and protein and these things kind

I'm going to throw it all:

of, I guess, concentrating your effort to build a bigger shoulder, a bigger calf

I'm going to throw it all:

muscle or something like that, I haven't been able to master that too well.

I'm going to throw it all:

But I like the idea of it. But I don't know.

I'm going to throw it all:

That doesn't strike me as biohacking.

I'm going to throw it all:

It's like, well, you're just dieting and eating.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. But am I wrong in assuming that?

I'm going to throw it all:

No.

I'm going to throw it all:

I mean, you can think of biohacking as kind of on this spectrum.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right?

I'm going to throw it all:

Like if you're looking at meditation, I know that Angelica you're into meditation.

I'm going to throw it all:

That can be sort of a very low-level type of biohacking.

I'm going to throw it all:

I know that this is how my brain works,

I'm going to throw it all:

and I'm going to repurpose that to accomplish a certain goal.

I'm going to throw it all:

So that's a very simple level.

I'm going to throw it all:

You could be a biohacker, right? Yeah.

I'm going to throw it all:

In a way, it does feel that way.

I'm going to throw it all:

It's like a magic trick sometimes because you can catch the loop.

I'm going to throw it all:

As long as you can find that space in

I'm going to throw it all:

between the two thoughts, you kind of take your power back, you know what I'm saying?

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. In that very cyclical moment.

I'm going to throw it all:

So it is like a hack.

I'm going to throw it all:

I was going to say, have you found that, like studying or when you're meditating?

I'm going to throw it all:

People say when you're physically writing something or physically touching a book,

I'm going to throw it all:

it kind of sits in your brain a little longer. Is that biohacking? Is studying

I'm going to throw it all:

for a final a biohack that students are doing across the country?

I'm going to throw it all:

I think where my mind goes is that

I'm going to throw it all:

biohacking is kind of working outside the system a little bit.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. All hacking has that.

I'm going to throw it all:

Yes. Snowden, Edward Snowden.

I'm going to throw it all:

They're the anarchists of the science world, these hackers.

I'm going to throw it all:

I love that. I'm always attracted to the hackers

I'm going to throw it all:

because I'm like, "what's really going on, man?"

I'm going to throw it all:

Love it, love it. Right.

I'm going to throw it all:

I'm not necessarily advocating that breaking laws or anything in there,

I'm going to throw it all:

because in some cases, the laws haven't even caught up to what's possible.

I'm going to throw it all:

That's a whole different conversation.

I'm going to throw it all:

But there's a little bit of trying to break the rules.

I'm going to throw it all:

Whether it's because you want to improve your health, whether

I'm going to throw it all:

you want to control your body, whether you want to sort of fend off aging.

I'm going to throw it all:

Like, these are different reasons.

I'm going to throw it all:

If you're thinking about body hacking in particular,

I'm going to throw it all:

these are all different reasons why people think about doing that.

I'm going to throw it all:

So it's a little bit of just trying to think outside the box.

I'm going to throw it all:

Totally. Right. Is cancer research

I'm going to throw it all:

somewhere in that spectrum of biohacking, trying to get around these

I'm going to throw it all:

cells that multiply and ultimately , unfortunately, kill a lot of people?

I'm going to throw it all:

That's a question that I think starts to

I'm going to throw it all:

get at the nuance here, because the way that most cancer research is done

I'm going to throw it all:

is kind of within the confines of an established system of research.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. Because there are so many safeguards to

I'm going to throw it all:

protect people's health and things like that.

I'm going to throw it all:

But I think the mindset of a scientist is a little bit of a hacker mindset.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. For sure.

I'm going to throw it all:

One of the biggest breakthroughs in cancer

I'm going to throw it all:

research that has come about in the last decade or so is this idea of hacking your

I'm going to throw it all:

body's own immune system to fight cancer cells.

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. So I think that's kind of like a hacker

I'm going to throw it all:

mindset within sort of like the established structure of medical research.

I'm going to throw it all:

Okay. So we, of course, hit up the Internet.

I'm going to throw it all:

We ask the Google. Amazing.

I'm going to throw it all:

Let's move into the second half of this segment, Body of Knowledge Autofill.

I'm going to throw it all:

We typed in our keyword "biohacking," and

I'm going to throw it all:

Google gave us the most searched questions that people have been asking, in the

I'm going to throw it all:

privacy of their own homes, online when they think no one can read it.

I'm going to throw it all:

So let's read off some of the most popular

I'm going to throw it all:

questions people are asking Google about biohacking.

I'm going to throw it all:

The first one is, "is biohacking ethical?" That's a good one.

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah.

I'm going to throw it all:

That's such a fuzzy line to draw, right? Yeah.

I'm going to throw it all:

I mean, it's a little nail on the head. Okay.

I'm going to throw it all:

It's not a very nuanced question.

I'm going to throw it all:

It's very like, "so is it ethical or what?" People want to know.

I'm going to throw it all:

That's going to be the first one because

I'm going to throw it all:

people are like, all right, is this right or wrong?

I'm going to throw it all:

I think that's kind of the gut instinct people get when they hear about it.

I'm going to throw it all:

They want to make it human, sort of.

I'm going to throw it all:

I think some people kind of make that

I'm going to throw it all:

decision themselves, too, when they first hear it.

I'm going to throw it all:

"We can make you smarter tomorrow if you

I'm going to throw it all:

inject yourself" and say, "well, I don't know if I want to do that."

I'm going to throw it all:

Mm-hmm.

I'm going to throw it all:

But if somebody makes their own decision to put a computer chip in their finger or

I'm going to throw it all:

something, sure, whatever, i t's your own body.

I'm going to throw it all:

I think where the ethical questions around

I'm going to throw it all:

biohacking start to get more nebulous is now that we can actually change genes.

I'm going to throw it all:

That...Okay...

I'm going to throw it all:

What does that mean about making your own decisions?

I'm going to throw it all:

Like, who makes those decisions for you?

I'm going to throw it all:

What if you change the genes that aren't

I'm going to throw it all:

just in your own body, but are the genes that you pass along to your children?

I'm going to throw it all:

Right. Wow.

I'm going to throw it all:

Do they have a choice? Yeah.

I'm going to throw it all:

It's so true.

I'm going to throw it all:

I think if you stay kind of at the shallow

I'm going to throw it all:

level, that life hacks kind of thing that it's like, okay, we're okay with this, but

I'm going to throw it all:

with new technology that is changing what it means about what's possible. The

I'm going to throw it all:

ethical questions get a lot thornier, right?

I'm going to throw it all:

Yeah.

I'm going to throw it all:

This next one sounds so funny to me, and I just want to see your reactions to this.

I'm going to throw it all:

"Biohacking is not a crime."

I'm going to throw it all:

I feel like this with someone being like,

I'm going to throw it all:

"biohacking is not a crime...right? I'm not wrong, right? Am I guilty? Am I going to jail?"

I'm going to throw it all:

Right.

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

"it's not a crime, right?

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

It's a guilty question.

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

It is really kind of fascinating, the experiments that people do on themselves.

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

Oh, go on.

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

There's like, the people who literally

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

think that, oh, I want to be able to open a card swipe door with my hand.

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

And so I'm just going to put that RFID chip under my skin.

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

And then there are the bodybuilders who learn about gene editing and think that

Yeah. They typed it out slowly:

:

"everybody does it...it's j ust like the vitamin supplements.

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What I'm going to do is actually try and change my own genes to build my own

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muscle." And maybe that's not such a great idea.

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Yeah. You know what else it makes me think of?

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Like designer dogs, when people curate a dog that they want.

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Yeah. I mean, I know we're talking about humans,

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but also even just in pets, it happens, like creating the pets, hypoallergenic

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, certain kind of face, certain kind of color, everything.

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I don't want to trail off too much, but I thought I saw a headline maybe a couple of

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months ago about trying to bring back the Woolly Mammoth?

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Oh, yeah.

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And I'm like, is this an Onion article or is this real?

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I think that is absolutely 100% real.

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People are interested in doing that and taking steps towards that.

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It is. And that's where these are questions that

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of like, "wait, what should science be doing?" Right?

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Because the people who want to bring back

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the woolly mammoth suggest that by bringing back the woolly

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mammoth, we can tackle environmental degradation and things like that.

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But aren't there 50 other things that we

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should be doing before we go to biohacking?

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That's exactly what I gut went to.

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I was like, we still have hungry kids in the US.

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So hold up.

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Before you bring back the Woolly Mammoth...

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Can you make a comedy sketch out of that, "Before you bring back the woolly mammoth..." I love that.

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Things to do before bringing back the

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Woolly mammoth. We've got things on the agenda.

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I love that.

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The next one here is "biohacking is amazing."

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It's such a subjective thing...

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If you don't think biohacking absolutely can be amazing.

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Yeah.

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But then there's something like, "wait, what?"

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Yeah. I mean, it is caused for amazement, right?

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I think "amazing" denotes positive feelings in all of us, generally speaking.

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I think one of my favorite examples of biohacking, like

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an artist who, used under the principle of biohacking, made cheese from celebrities.

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Wait, what does that mean? Oh, my God.

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By collecting bacteria from famous people

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from their armpits and toes and belly buttons and using that to make cheese.

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Wow.

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So that's a different way to think about it.

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Wow. I'm wrapping my mind around that.

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And did people buy it? It was art.

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Oh, it was.

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That's another hilarious term, art.

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We won't go there.

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I didn't mean to come across as being judgmental of art as a scientist.

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No, it's hilarious to call it art, I'm

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saying the bacteria cheese from a celebrity.

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Wow. Yeah.

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That's still washing over me. Me too.

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I can't even have a response to that right now, like that's just...

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I'm sure it was a commentary of sorts.

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And I'd love to read the artist statement, which is always a little more intense

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than, it can be more interesting than the work itself.

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But if you think about biohacking as a way

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to use biology outside the confines of the system, there you go.

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Within that context, I am amazed.

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That's absolutely amazing.

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So, "biohacking for weight loss." Interesting.

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I mean, intermittent fasting.

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I see that often as one of the classic hacks.

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Yeah.

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I'm actually not up to speed on what the evidence for that is.

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But I know a lot of people do it.

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And the last one, you want to go for it? Sure.

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"Biohacking for longevity."

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Oh, this is an interesting one. Okay.

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Because one

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mindset that is common among many biohackers is this idea that, "why be

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constrained by the human body?" Like, "what is death?" Right?

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Right. Let's just get rid of it.

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Why do we need to die?

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Let's just change our bodies so we keep living.

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So you see things like people injecting,

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like doing blood transfusions from young people as a way to try and fend off aging.

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Wow.

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I did not know that.

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Is that some, like, upper-echelon, need to have a lot of..? It sounds expensive.

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Probably.

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Like getting a blood transfusion for cosmetic reasons.

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Right.

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That sounds very bougie to me. Yeah.

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You probably can't go to CVS for that.

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People are waiting for those for really intense reasons.

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And then I guess there's people that are like, I'd love to look a little younger.

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Let's give it a go. Yeah.

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I mean, all these questions are so interesting because it denotes some kind

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of concern or worry about life as we understand it.

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"I don't like that part of life and I don't want this function of it." And I'm

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hearing some of these examples is just blowing my mind.

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I'm just...

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Mind-blowing.

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Thanks so much, Jayatri.

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And thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of So Curious!

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This podcast is part of The Franklin Institute.

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The Franklin Institute is a science museum located in Philadelphia.

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The Franklin Institute's mission is to

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inspire a passion for learning about science and technology.

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For more information on everything about the Franklin Institute, visit fi.edu.

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This podcast is produced by Radio Kismet.

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Radio Kismet is Philadelphia's premier

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podcast network for businesses looking to develop their own branded podcast content.

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Check them out at radiokismet.com.

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There are a lot of people who make this podcast happen.

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Thanks to the producers, Joy Montefusco and Jayatr Das.

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Our managing producer, Emily Charish.

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Our operations head, Christopher Plant.

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Our associate producer, Liliana Green.

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Our audio team, Christian Cedarlund,

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Goldie Bingley, Lauren DeLuca and Brad Florent.

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Our development producer, Opeola Bukola.

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Our science writer, Kira Villette and our graphic designer, Emma Sager.

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