Posted: Thu, November 07, 2013 | By: Transhuman / Biohack
By: Rich Lee
1. Transhumanism is a verb.
2. Transcendence is a human right.
3. Technology relevant to that right will be laid bare for all to see.
4. Anon science is the way of the transhuman future.
5. Nobody is coming to save you.
Grinding: How to get involved
I’m probably not the best representation of a Grinder, on account of my trigger finger and space gangster ways. If you want to get a more accurate feel for Grinder culture then check out http://grinding.be . Right now, most Grinder discussions take place at the forum here: Biohack.me
We need contributors at the biohack.me forum, with skills and creativity, especially:
* Biomechanical engineers
* Medical device designers (or students/teachers looking for project ideas)
* Biomaterials people
* Electrical engineers
* Silk Road entrepreneurs with established logistics networks (contact me bros)
* People with dreams and ideas on human augmentation, however crazy they may seem
* Production and manufacturing experts
* A dedicated webmaster
* Space gangsters looking to network/expand
* Molecular biologists
* People with access to enzymes, multielectrode arrays, and other Grinder materials
I have ideas. You have ideas. Some of our ideas are batshit crazy fantasies and some have a real immediate chance of working. Even the crazy ideas have value because they challenge us to build the impossible. I started collecting lists of all the ideas I saw floating around the biohacker and Grinder communities that were relevant to human modification. All of these projects need developers and you are welcome to steal (or re-steal) them. Modify them if you want. This HERE is my personal (temporary and ever-changing) document that I make public officially for the first time. You may need Google Drive to open it. Don’t expect anything fancy.
Add your own projects to this list by following this link:
Don’t worry about your professional reputations. We support Anon science as well as citizen science. You are just a screen name. Anonymous science offers the added benefit of being able to openly discuss otherwise taboo topics (every industry has them). It is a valuable way to sidestep charismatic leaders in your profession who can destroy a career or cause the stagnation of an entire field. It allows you to strip the reverence away from old fundamentals or questionable foundations of reason and publish new ideas for peer review. It is not an excuse to commit quackery. It is the tool that we will use to journey into forbidden territory and how we will develop the means of our transcendence.
Some of you believe that there are some technologies that should be open source and available for the world to see. You have probably worked on technologies in the past that never saw the light of day. Maybe your company got involved in a lawsuit and that tech is still in an ownership dispute. Maybe a competitor purchased the tech and never did anything with it. Maybe DARPA says it is classified. Maybe you feel that society would be better off knowing about it. The Grinder community supports you and will gladly distribute your tech leaks. Schematics, gerber files, formulas, CAD files, code…we take it all. Drop the info anonymously in a pastebin, http://pastebin.com/ , and send us a tip of it’s location. Or, simply title the document “Grinder” and we will find it. If desired, we can take credit for hacking the info from your company computers or maybe a mobile device of the executive of your choice.
If you have access to materials or equipment and wish to donate to the cause, but don’t want to know the details of the project, we can accept donations through a third party or by whatever method you are comfortable with.
If transcendence is something you believe in and you have realized that nobody is coming to save you, get involved on a local level for accelerated results. Grindhouse Wetware of Pittsburg and Grind DC are good examples of the advantages of real world meetups. Post a biweekly meet on www.meetup.com or craigslist, or whatever site. Add a group to this map:
Find your nearest hackerspace, start a Grinder bar, or clear out some basement space and get to work grinding. Remember to keep the group free from politics and drama. “Networks, not hierarchies”, as the guys at Grinding.be might say. This is more like Fight Club than the Marine corp. There is no shortage of projects to work on and everything we do is open source so feel free to steal, contribute, collaborate, or improve on anything you see there. I have too many projects to complete by myself. Whatever you do, don’t go there and start dumping links! That is what the 100 transhuman Facebook groups are for. Go there to work, not to critique projects and say ”meh, I’ll wait for mind uploading”. This is a forum for attainable stuff you can make now. Be prepared to see some weird ideas, but remember “how” is more important than “why”. Do not taint the sanctity of this forum with your politics! Nobody cares about that. Before you post questions about magnets read the FAQ & sticky. Add your knowledge to the wiki.
There it is. Below is a personal story, which is optional reading.
What spiral of madness leads one to Grinding?
I am often asked: What kind of person becomes a grinder?
My family phrases the question differently. They want to know how a money-obsessed businessman suddenly abandons all of his previous ambitions to extract electronics from Happy Meal toys and why he straps electrodes to his head, or why he tapes candle warmers under his arm before submerging himself in a bathtub full of ice water.
Why does someone become a Grinder? That is a good question. I never really asked anyone else, I just always assumed we were Grinding for the same reasons. We Grind for synergistic reasons, which is all that really matters. I do know that Grinders are a very diverse bunch at the moment. Some come from the body modification world, some come from transhumanist circles, some are futurists, some come from science and academia, and some remain pure and of uncertain origin.
I am probably not your average Grinder. I have always been a futurist at heart. I was raised religious but became an atheist in my early twenties. I rid myself of god and faith and turned to science and technology. I never really gave up my dream of eternal life without the constraints of the flesh. The method to achieve this is all that had changed. Medical breakthroughs are happening all the time, and I was fairly confident that life extension drugs would be made within my lifetime. Extending your lifespan buys you some time to figure out all of the other things. I liked to read about the latest and greatest gadgets, breakthroughs, etc.
I did realize early on that it was going to take a lot of money to buy the things that I wanted. I always figured that making money was going to be the best thing I could do to get the future that was on the horizon. I worked in China for a few years, I owned investment real estate, started several businesses, played the markets, etc.
My grandmother died about 5 years ago and she left behind a rubber tub full of magazines from the late 40’s all the way through the mid 80’s. I habitually flipped to the science and medical sections to gaze at the latest and greatest of yesteryear. The articles proudly showcased things like the artificial heart. They often ended with promises of things to come.
* In the future robotics will make work easier and people will only need to work 20 hrs per week.
* In your lifetime you will see the end of disease and death.
* A 150 year life span by 1999.
* Flying cars will bring you to your Jetson-esque condo on a spire where you will enjoy a hot meal cooked by your robot maid.
These were the ghosts of future past.
The magazines in the rubber tub still haunt me today because they are also the ghosts of future present. These articles were no different than the articles I had been reading for the last decade. The difference was that many of the people reading magazines in 1967 were now dead. I wondered how many atheists from that era, with dreams of immortality and superhuman abilities had put faith in those articles? How many had let technological soothsayers give them comfort with their promises of a luxurious future? What happened to their future? What if I never get my future? How different was my faith in science compared to my previous faith in heaven? For me it wasn’t different at all. Reading future promises from a tech prophet boils my blood now. I despise the techno-optimist lies that had once given me a false sense of comfort. Years later I would read the famous sentiment that perfectly summed up that experience:
“Where’s my fucking jetpack?! Where is my flying car?”
I kind of went into a panic and analyzed my actual likelihood of getting to go to space, living forever, and owning a flying car. I didn’t see any companies trying to develop flying cars or jetpacks at the time. I would probably decline if I was offered a chance to invest in a company developing a jetpack for sale to the public, simply because of the legal liability alone. Nobody was going to sell me the future I wanted anytime soon. Lois Vuitton was not going to sell me designer genes. Apple isn’t going to sell me a cybernetic eyeball. I had this stupid fantasy in my head that I would be able to buy these things in my lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, the technology will probably be there, you just don’t get access to it. Jetpacks were made in the 1960’s. Where is your fucking jetpack? Humans walked on the moon in the 60’s. Why haven’t you been there?
I decided to get involved directly in making the things that I wanted. I had no good understanding of electronics, biology, etc. As an entrepreneur, I have jumped into countless ventures that were out of my element. It doesn’t intimidate me. Not knowing about something is okay, and I generally don’t get embarrassed by asking questions. I mostly just tried to learn what I could and discover what was possible with the current state of technology.
What I wanted went a bit beyond jetpacks and robot maids. I want out of humanity. I don’t want to wait for modern medicine to evolve us into some new herd of supermen. I want out of the herd. I want to explore hyper-individuality, which may involve alien thoughts and bodies. Part of this motivation stems from contempt. Look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The list of human needs represents everything disgusting and pathetic about humanity. The base of Maslow’s pyramid contains the most fundamental human needs like eating, shitting, the need for warmth and shelter, sleep, air, sex, and homeostasis. How much turmoil, anguish, and violence has been caused in the preceding 3.6 billion years because of these needs? Yet people are still of the opinion that the solution is to provide more of these things for people. I say eliminate the need altogether.
I have done some shady things in shady countries with shady people, and I was prepared to do some shady things if I had to in order to make this happen. I still wake up each morning with this pursuit in my mind. It is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
For whatever reason I naively thought I was alone in my quest to enhance myself. I found the Grinding movement through Lepht Anonym who wrote a column called “Scrapheap Transhumanism” a few years ago. It was the first time I had heard of the term “Transhumanism”, so I was excited to finally be able to give a name to my instincts, and I was especially excited to learn that there were others out there who had arrived at the same conclusions I had. Lepht’s adventures in DIY cybernetics had me fascinated. Here was a person who was way ahead of me, planning to implant a cybernetic compass in the calf. I appreciated the ambition. Lepht had already performed several home brew surgeries without anesthesia, implanting things like RFID tags and neodymium magnets. Lepht is poor too, and proved to me that money was less of a factor than action and willpower. The neodymium magnet implants especially fascinated me, since they allowed you to feel magnetic fields.
As soon as I heard about the magnets I emailed the guy who pioneered them, body modification master Steve Haworth, and two weeks later I drove to Phoenix and got one implanted in my finger. Many articles have been written on these, so I won’t elaborate, but you can find more info and an FAQ here. I figured I could use the magnetic sense to detect EM fields on hidden microphones and wires on the people who you meet from time to time in weird business transactions. I also thought it might give me an advantage playing pachisuro (those Japanese slot machines with those little metal balls that bounce through the pegs like in plinko) by allowing me to drag the balls through the glass into the desired hole. Unfortunately, the implant doesn’t really work for those applications, but I can tell you that I’ve made my investment back a hundred times over doing cheap bar tricks.
I might have never discovered Steve Haworth or got my sixth sense if it wasn’t for the article Lepht wrote. Lepht had a blog too, which was starting to evolve. Collaborations were beginning to occur between commenters following the blog. It became apparent that a blog was not going to be the ideal format for some of these collaborations, so a forum quickly formed and Biohack.me was born. Grindhouse Wetware is a development team that eventually spawned from the forum. The term “Grinder” had been floating around. “Grinder” is a gaming term that got borrowed by Warren Ellis in his series Doktor Sleepless to describe a tech-savvy subculture of society who often mixed tech with extreme body modification.
[Ellis also recently published Gun Machine, which has a cool trailer.]
After joining several transhumanist forums and Facebook groups, I started to realize that all transhumanists were not like Lepht. I would start talking about self surgery and implants and people in forums and chats would freak out. They thought I was crazy for going bionic or discussing things like altering the human genome. It wasn’t the response I thought I would get. Most of the transhuman groups had tragically divided themselves into political classifications. I was surprised to learn that many of them had no intention of ever getting a cybernetic implant or genetically modifying themselves. Most of them seemed opposed to invasive self experimentation. Nobody I talked to seemed to feel the same sense of urgency that I did. It was clear that there was a difference between Grinders and most Transhumanists. I still think Grinders have more in common with the Body Modification community than transhumanist communities to be honest.
In China I learned an important lesson: Never oppress a hero. I learned it the hard way, but now I can’t forget it. Lepht was getting a shit ton of criticism, much of which was coming from other transhumanists. I couldn’t believe that transhumanists were frowning upon self enhancement! Sure, Lepht was using non-standard tools and non-standard sterilization methods, but hey, if a vegetable peeler and vodka are all you have then that is what you use, if you want it bad enough. Honestly, Lepht thought it all out more than I probably would have and the actual hazard was not that great in that instance anyway. I guess I’m old school, because this stuff doesn’t phase me. When I was a kid we were sticking safety pins in our faces in the name of punk rock, so I didn’t flinch when I saw Lepht getting a cut on the finger. In 1998 I went to an obscure film festival in the middle of nowhere. They had an afterparty where I met a woman named Poppy who had removed her own tonsils because she couldn’t afford the procedure. The willpower it must have required to do things like that was inspiring to me.
There are some shitty, shitty things about biology. Some people are born with limitations that are not their fault, but they are easy targets for ridicule when they don’t put on a proper smile about living in pain. We all have to do battle with the meat shells we are confined in and some people have tougher battles than others. Lepht was one of those people with the tougher battle. Transhumanism seems like it would have been a sympathetic community, given the vast number of weirdoes, sex fiends, megalomaniacs, shut-ins, narcissists, gender jammers, and neuro-deviants that comprise our overwhelmingly aspie little group, but Lepht didn’t get a free pass. As of this writing, “DIY” has become a positive term in the H+ community (the community has changed dramatically even in the last six months). Back then though, transhumanism had this weird vibe. Everyone was hypersensitive about “rocking the boat”. Too many people were of the opinion that Lepht was “going to ruin it for the rest of us”. Lepht might have even had that same concern at one point too. PR was seen as vital because our enemies are venomous and outnumber us considerably. Transhuman cliques went out of their way to denounce Lepht and still occasionally denounce Grinding in general. Lepht has since gone dark and the blog is now quiet.
This sentiment of “not rocking the boat” is one that I strictly oppose. I loathe and hate it. The sentiment is still expressed from time to time in many H+ discussions, and it is usually either rooted in an irrational fear or a desire to control. So, to the PR obsessed, socially concerned transhumanists who are afraid of “rocking the boat” because it will “ruin it for the rest of us” and “portray us in a bad light” I say: Fuck you guys. I’m going bionic with or without you. The shit I plan to do to my body will make Lepht’s bloody fingers look mild in comparison.
I might “ruin it for the rest of you”, but I’m of the opinion that you will all die waiting for your future to be sold to you anyway. None of us are waiting for you to sort yourselves out politically, or carve up pieces of a pie yet to be cooked. I’ll be damned if you can claim to be transhumanists and then denounce transhuman acts. A plumber plumbs. A baker bakes. The title goes with the verb. Call yourselves transhumanists if you want, but don’t trash talk those that have earned the name. Also realize that some Grinders are not into transhumanism but they may be committing transhuman acts and they don’t care what IEET or Humanity Plus or Singularity such and such, or whatever transhuman group you are in has to say about them. They don’t care what your enemies say about them or you for that matter. People from outside transhumanism are going to become transhuman and continue to commit transhuman acts, and this means something important:
From now on Transhumanism is a Verb, not a Club.
The world isn’t going to jump into transhumanism all at the same time. There will be inequality in abilities in the posthuman world just as there is now. An effective world ethics committee on human enhancement is about as likely as world peace. Just as pro-gun folks argue that gun bans do nothing to keep villains from owning guns, ethics committee decisions do nothing to keep socially disruptive tech out of the hands of guys like me. Transhumanism is not a perfect retirement community you hope to afford someday. The future is going to be filled with gritty debates and social upheaval, accept it. Stop trying to reason with our critics. They will never be convinced. Humans are crabs in a barrel and they will drag you down if you ask permission to transcend your genetic prisons. Asking permission is insulting to some of us who hold that transcendence is a human right and doesn’t require public approval or government permission. Show people something tangible and some of them will come around, but stop “recruiting” on theoretic futures. We will always have enemies because that is life. Let them come.
Part of me hopes our enemies outlaw all h+ tech so we can discover who among us wanted to become posthuman bad enough that they would keep pursuing it even after a prohibition. I’d like to see who still thought it was a worthy pursuit, even when humanity turned their backs on it and it fell out of fashion. I want to see any of the classic dystopian transhumanist nightmares come true and watch to see which transhumanists gave up in the face of oppression and which ones gathered the fortitude to stick it out and form an underground railroad for others on the posthuman path. That is the kind of person I want to work with. That is the kind of person who can be a Grinder.
That is how I became a Grinder and how I discovered transhumanism. I was told that I discovered them in the wrong order, but I beg to differ. If a guy like me with no medical or scientific background can start grinding, chances are you can too, despite what you might have heard. I think everyone has something to contribute, especially now that we are in an era where collaborations are increasingly multidisciplinary.