Hi, I’m Winslow Strong, the creator of Biohack Yourself. I find personal growth to be the most rewarding thing in life. For me, an essential part of a life well-lived is pushing against the boundaries of what I thought were my limits to try to transcend those limits. When humanity at large does this, the benefits are not confined to individuals but spill over into all of society. I see biohacking as the scientific manifestation of the individual desire for growth and development. It draws upon the tools and methods of experimental science to assist us in our quest.
Reflecting on my varied experiences over the years has led me to the following conclusions:
- Most people (myself included) don’t invest sufficiently in improving their hardware – their basic capabilities that influence all of the specific skills and abilities that people seek to hone over their lifetimes. Many people don’t even know that these basic capabilities can be increased.
- Most people (myself included) don’t experiment enough or properly. Routines have their value, but without constantly seeking out new things, trying them, paying attention to the results, and adjusting our lives accordingly, we forgo a vast potential for self-development.
I have found that my investments in the above have paid off handsomely overall. Even in particular cases that were dead-ends, the process of self-experimentation and exploration is usually quite fun. So in November 2012 I decided to start this website to share the ideas and tactics that I have developed for biohacking. I hope equally to learn from interacting with the other biohackers out there.
My interest in biohacking stems largely from my belief that the human mind is the most powerful force in the universe. Hence, anything that can be done to sharpen and tune it has enormous potential to help individuals and society. Fitness is a lifelong hobby for me, so I’ve tried out plenty of biohacks to boost performance there as well. I also have no interest in dying any time soon
Growing up I had some natural talent and interest in math and science, so I worked hard in high school to get into Princeton and study physics there. I liked the challenge and explanatory power of the subject, so after finishing my bachelor’s degree I enrolled in the PhD program in physics at the University of California Santa Barbara. I tried out a bunch of research areas – particle physics, biophysics, nanoparticle synthesis, evolutionary game theory – but none really had sticking power for me.
Around this time the world financial system was beginning to implode and I wanted to know why, so I left the physics program with a master’s degree and transferred to the PhD program in statistics. I was hoping to learn how to understand and improve the quantitative models that seemed at the time to be weapons of mass destruction within the financial system. Now I believe that the financial system is dysfunctional beyond repair, but that’s a topic for another blog. After finishing my PhD in 2011, I took a job as a researcher at a university in Zürich, Switzerland, where I currently am.
It’s very competitive trying to make it as an academic in science or mathematics. The pressure can be immense, for those who haven’t gained sufficient control over their minds to learn how to not impose it on themselves. It’s important to perform at a sustainably high level for a large percentage of your waking hours. Even the occasional hangover on weekends seemed at times to be an unacceptable hit to performance. Hence, my academic career has been one motivator in my mission to figure out the best methods to increase cognitive performance. To that end, I’ve experimented with Buddhist meditation, nootropic drugs, sleep hacking and diet. I’m just getting started though. More powerful biohacks will emerge in the future, piggy-backing off of new technologies and advances in scientific understanding.
One thing that became quite clear early on in my investigation into biohacking is how connected the mind and body are. I’ve had regular exercise habits for so long that I took its effects for granted until I tried not exercising for a month. It definitely ranks near the top as a mental performance enhancer of everything I’ve tried. Fortunately, I enjoy it quite a bit. I’m particularly into strength training these days, although in the past I have gotten competitive about running (5:09 PR mile) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I surf when I have the chance.
I delved deeply into the mind-body connection for the first time in 2006 when I was suffering from a repetitive strain injury in my hands from a combination of stress and long hours at a computer (I think more the former though). I learned how to strengthen my mind’s connection with my body to deal more productively with stress, removing the knife from the wound so to speak, and then furthermore to accelerate the healing process. The result was that I felt 90% better in about 1 week and felt completely cured after a few more weeks, and the symptoms have never returned. This was after conventional medical treatments coupled with rest had failed to produce any improvement over several months. This experience opened my eyes to the power of the mind to influence our physical well-being.
In 2007 I was exposed to the Buddhist philosophy of the mind and to meditation practice through a friend. I’ve been meditating ever since. The power that meditation has to tune and hack the mind is vast, limited only by how deeply you are willing to commit yourself to it. A big direction of pursuit for me is melding Eastern mind training techniques with Western science and technology to achieve greater results than either can on its own. The goal is to at least equal the gains in well-being that Buddhist monks have realized without devoting a lifetime to meditation and mindfulness practice.
From 2008-2011 I entered a hardcore graduate student phase, dedicating myself to mathematics to become good enough to get a research position at one of the best places in the world. Reflecting back on it, this single-minded pursuit was overly limiting for my tastes. I really think that I pushed too much out of the way for it. As is common though, after obtaining my PhD, I looked around at the world with fresh eyes. The Quantified Self movement had gone from nonexistent to big time in a few years, riding the wave of emergent self-tracking and personal analytics tools that allow us to measure and track personal data in a more complete and seamless way than ever before. These are the basic tools of biohacking. I founded the Zürich chapter of the Quantified Self meetup group in November 2012 in order to connect and build up the community here in Zürich. Shortly after, I launched this website.
I’m interested in working on ideas/startups related to biohacking and/or Quantified Self, especially with application to capturing the benefits of meditative training with less time and effort than the path that monks take. I have skills in math, stats, physics and programming, and am currently self-educating in machine learning. I have a broad knowledge of what’s going on in personal analytics and some ideas on what could be done better. Feel free to contact me at winslow dot strong at gmail dot com.