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Why is Silicon Valley obsessed with biohacking?

Hvmn CEO Geoff Woo offers his take on the trend on this bonus episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask.

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Hvmn CEO Geoff Woo Hvmn

Counting calories. Tracking steps. Being more efficient. Extending life. Ending death?

Silicon Valley is in something of a health craze, and one of the companies catering to it is Hvmn, pronounced “human.” On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Hvmn CEO Geoff Woo spoke with Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode about why his company and others that encourage “biohacking” are popping up.

“Hackers use engineering principles to look at systems,” Woo said. “The difference is, we’ve looked at health and wellness as an intuitive thing: ‘I feel better after doing a yoga session.’ Probably, something is happening, but we're not measuring it.”

Hvmn sells boxes of “human enhancement” compounds — unscheduled drugs called nootropics, sometimes referred to as “smart drugs” — that claim to make their user smarter, more alert or more productive. Woo started experimenting with nootropics by ordering mysterious “bags of powder” from Alibaba and the dark web, but today Hvmn makes all of its products in a factory outside of Los Angeles.

“Medicine has always been sort of like, ‘Okay, you’re in this range, you’re unhealthy,’” he said. “If you’re within the healthy range, then it’s like, no one tells you what to do. So it’s like, why aren’t there people being quantitative in the healthy range?”

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Hvmn also encourages its fans to fast several days per week, through a program called Wefast, only drinking water — a program that everyone who works there follows. Woo said the company and its partners would be announcing “interesting results” from clinical trials about its diet in the coming months.

On a personal level, he likened biohacking to an intrinsic “human desire,” citing historical examples of fasting and the way ancient rulers tried to cheat death by, for example, drinking mercury.

“I’d like to live forever,” Woo said. “Why not? It’s a very cultural notion that we’re expected to perish. Everyone in the past has died. I’d rather be optimistic.”

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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.


Listen to Reset

Josiah Zayner is a biohacker who’s famous for injecting himself with the gene-editing tool CRISPR. At a time when the technology exists for us to change (or hack) our own DNA, what are the ethics of experimenting on ourselves, and others, at home? On the launch episode of Recode’s new podcast, host Arielle Duhaime-Ross talks to Zayner about how he’s thinking about human experimentation today. Plus: new efforts to come up with a code of conduct for biohackers, from legislation to self-regulation.

Subscribe to Reset now on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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