BUT WHAT CAN YOU ACTUALLY DO WITH THIS TECH?
Practically speaking? The most real-world biohacking applications are to protect digital privacy and allow secure payment -- no low bar considering that identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country.
“You’re represented by the cards in your wallet, keys on your keychain, passwords for all your accounts,” says Graafstra, who is the founder of Dangerous Things and Vivokey Technologies, Seattle-based companies that sell “custom gadgetry” to help you go bionic. “Pretty much all of those things are insecure; you hear of data breaches all the time.” Even biometric safeguards like facial recognition and fingerprint authentication aren’t truly secure, he argues. “I can easily grab your fingerprints off of a high-res Facebook photo and reproduce them with a 3D printer and open your phone.” (Um, terrifying.)
Have one of Graafstra’s implants placed into your hand, however, and now you can require that every bank account, email, and app you use must be authenticated by your implant. And the only way that gets stolen is if someone steals you.
While implants like Graafstra’s can process secure bitcoin transactions right now, we’re not at the point where you can wave your hand at a 7-Eleven chip reader to pay for gas. “MasterCard, Visa, and banks in general just have issues with implants -- they find them icky,” he says. “The technology is done, it's just about getting approvals, and we're on the cusp of that.”
The goal to Graafstra and grinders like him is to help people acquire these “frictionless, managementless” devices so they’re ready for that inevitable next step. To date, Graafstra has sold more than 100,000 devices and installed some 5,500 implants himself. (“Installation” can be as simple as using a needle to shoot a fly-sized chip under the skin. For larger devices, however, it’s akin to minor hand surgery.)
For the creative soul, biohacking technology can go far beyond utilitarian tasks. Ask Moon Ribas, a Spanish cyborg activist and performance artist who has implants in the tops of her feet that communicate with online seismographs; whenever there’s new data -- earthquakes! -- Ribas feels the vibrations. The stronger the quakes, the stronger the feelings. She uses this seismic sense to fuel a recurring performance piece called “Waiting for Earthquakes,” where she interprets the activity she feels through dance.
“For me, [being a cyborg] has always had an artistic base -- to explore movement in the deepest way,“ she says. “I knew that, by uniting myself with technology, I could do that.”
Her durational piece can last minutes or hours. “Earth is the choreographer,” Ribas says. “I'm just updating the data.”