“Hack Your Age”: Anti-Aging Technology, Biohacking, and the Pursuit of the Optimal Self

Friday, 20 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Kirsten ELLISON, University of Calgary, Canada
In the realm of anti-aging medicine, cosmetics and supplementation, the machine metaphor of the body that has dominated the field in the past has been reworked into what Neilson (2012) has described as ‘a kind of molecular software or reserve of information that can be read and re-written.’ Popularized by DIY scientists and quantified-selfers, the language of ‘biohacking’ has become increasingly prevalent in anti-aging discourse. Drawing on recent examples from anti-aging promotional materials and popular science and technology print media, I examine how the language of biohacking is employed to construct, translate and quantify biomarkers of aging into of points of entry into the body as ‘molecular software’ via various techniques of intervention, ranging from stem cell serums and hormone optimization to nutritional supplements. Presented with speculative futures of superhuman health and longevity, consumers and patients are invited to ‘hack’ the aging process, reducing age to one of the many programs, or rather ‘bugs’ that can be re-written, removed, and rendered obsolete. The ‘hacked’ body is one that has been upgraded, boosted, or (re)programmed to ‘run’ with optimal performance, resilience, and functionality. And in this particular case, it is the perpetually youthful, ageless body. In the pursuit of moving beyond age, to be more than, it is a state that can never be fully achieved and yet must constantly be striven for, a continuous battle between the resurfacing of time/age and the (re)programming of its obsolescence.