This week’s conversation is with Dave Asprey, an entrepreneur & tech innovator, four-time New York Times bestselling author, award-winning podcast host, and pioneer of the Biohacking movement.
For those of you who have listened for a while, you know I’ve had issues with the term “hacking” – and at the same time, I’m fascinated by folks who create and disrupt. Having devoted decades of his life to elevating human performance and creating significant brands like Bulletproof and Upgrade Labs, I wanted to dig beneath the surface to better understand Dave, the human.
In this conversation, we not only cover Dave’s insights about performance & longevity, but also how he’s disrupted an industry, what “biohacking” means to him, and what’s behind his quest to live to 180 years old.
We go to some opinionated places – it’s always fun to hear from different perspectives – and as with any episode, I encourage you to listen with an open mind, and make informed decisions that are best for you.
“I’m a biohacker. I’m curious, and I just do what works… And that’s at the core of biohacking. How do we measure what works and stop doing things that don’t work?”
In This Episode:
His mission statement
It’s only two words, and it’s in the mission statement for my companies, and it’s to upgrade humanity. And that’s what we’re doing. And there’s different levels that you can use to upgrade our hardware, our software, our firmware, and even the signaling mechanisms between each of the nodes in the great network of humanity. But the reality is, it’s time for an upgrade.
The reason he started on his biohacking journey
Years ago when I was working in Silicon Valley, I was having massive brain fog. Okay, I’m 26, I’m allowed to attend board meetings for a 36 billion market cap company. I’m not allowed to speak, but I can at least attend them and I’m just killing in my career, and I’m so tired all the time. I have such crippling brain fog. I bought disability insurance. I’m like, I don’t even know why they think I’m able to remember all this because my brain is scrambled. So I had the accelerator pressed all the way to the floor, and I felt like I was slowing down and I couldn’t push any harder. So I started really getting into the whole biohacking thing. And as I started realizing how much of a shift I could have.
Changing his external and internal life
As we’re sitting here, I’m 8% body fat. I’ve had my shirt off in men’s health, which is the most unlikely thing ever to happen to a 300 pound computer hacker in all of history. And something I never would’ve predicted or even asked for. And that was a byproduct of tuning my brain and my metabolism to work the way I wanted. And that’s why around this movement, look, it’s the art and science of changing the environment around you and inside of you so that you have full control of your own biology. I got into meditation cause all that stuff that was supposed to work didn’t work.
Applying updates to your system
If we don’t admit that we’re doing that, we will actually we’ll be like your computer if you never apply the updates, it just stops working. And that’s what’s happening to our species right now. The world is changing and we are changing what we do in our behaviors, but we haven’t changed ourselves to keep up with the world that we built.
Doing – and measuring – what works
I’m a biohacker. I’m curious, and I just do what works. And that’s the promise I made to myself. I’m not going to go to the gym and beat myself up and do all these things that don’t work. I’m just going to measure what works. And that’s at the core of biohacking. How do we measure what works and stop doing things that don’t work?
His take on consciousness
My belief based on all the data I’ve seen is that substantial parts of our consciousness are non-local. And that some of it runs locally, but okay, I’m a systems architect though. I design content distribution networks and distributed systems and AI and stuff like that. And if you look at how systems signaling works, you look at how distributed systems work, it’s pretty clear that we are an antenna. And when you have a web browser, some of your browser runs on your local machine and some of the content’s in the cloud. I know for certain that some of our content is in the cloud, and it’s not the cloud that I helped to build. It’s the cloud that was there when we came onto the planet.
I just decided that emotions were additional sources of information about what’s going on inside me and oftentimes in the world around me. And then I went down the process of years, a lot of it involving neurofeedback, sorting out the difference between an automatic response to the world around me, which is being triggered essentially, versus intuition, and learning that you can consciously turn some emotions on and off. Like gratitude and forgiveness are programmable, tunable emotions that will negate programming that is triggering you. And that’s what 40 years in my neuroscience practice is based on, is using a lie detector so you can’t tell yourself, you forgave your mom for being mean to you when you were three. You can tell yourself you did, but if the computer doesn’t agree, you’re not done, and you’re going to keep doing it. That kind of a practice has worked really well for me because it’s made me stupidly resilient to life stresses.
Narcissism and trauma
A large number of business people at higher levels are actually motivated, whether it’s early life trauma or quite often by bullying or by family issues, to prove they’re good enough. So they’re doing all this career achievement. That was certainly the first half of my career. You’re doing all this career achievement because you’ve been traumatized, and you know that failure equals death. So you will do anything. The problem is you’ll tell yourself any story, including one that’s a lie, and you’ll end up being a narcissist. The definition of narcissism, as I use it, is someone who believes their own story when they lie to themselves and others. And that’s different than a sociopath with someone who knows they’re lying when they lie to themselves and others. And in business, narcissism and sociopathy, that’s what destroys great organizations. That’s what pulls them down. And it’s oftentimes triggered by trauma.
The highest level is equanimity, which is where you can choose your state, whether it’s compassion or empathy or any other state, and you can hold that state in the middle of a hurricane no matter what’s happening around you. And that’s at the core of why I called my first big company Bulletproof. That’s the state of resilience. That’s a state of equanimity where nothing can touch me.
His thoughts on death
When you’re done, you’re done. I have had the great honor, when I was in my twenties, I started running an anti-aging nonprofit group where my board members were 88 years old. I learned from my elders, and I’ve watched people pass, and I’ve watched people pass by choice. And when you’re done, you’re done, and you can be gone in a day or in three days. And some of the great gurus who I’ve studied, they do that. They really do call their followers, say, “I’m done, so I’ll be leaving soon,” and then they sit and pose and 48 hours later, they’re not in their body anymore. And then they burn their body or whatever. I don’t know how all that stuff works. I’m not there yet, and maybe I won’t even get there, but all I’m saying is I don’t want it to be by accident, I don’t want it to be by disease. I want it to be conscious.
Living until he’s 180 years old
Why is that a true assumption? Because in your lifetime, it used to be that when you were 60, you were elderly. And so many 60-year-olds in 1990 got pissed off about that, that they started measuring their grip strength and they had to change the definition of elderly by 10 years. If you look at The Golden Girls, the TV show, they’re the same age you and me are right now, and they look really old and we don’t. What just changed in our life? Given what’s happening with AI, given the rate of change of technology, given the last 20 years of research and non-profit work in the anti-aging field, if we can’t do way better than our current best today to reverse aging, I think I’m being conservative at 180 and I have no intent of having 17% of my skin thickness, which is what would happen given the current rate of decline of skin thickness if you don’t do something about it. So no, I am going to look as good and be smarter and wiser than I am today when I’m 180. That’s the goal.
His next project with Dr. David Sinclair
He has announced that he’s reversed aging in cells. I’m going to do some stem cell work. I’ve had more stem cells probably than any other person on the planet. I’ve had them injected in my brain, in my spine, every joint in my body, and I’m going to get David Sinclair-flavored reverse age stem cells where we take my stem cells and reverse their biological clocks and put them back in. That’s happening this year. I’ve had my natural killer cells cultured, expanded, and 2 billion of them added back into my body to reverse my immune system’s age by 20 years. I’m sitting here in front of you and I’ve done this shit. What do you think it’s going to look like in 20 years?
“Hacking yourself,” regardless of income
There are some core principles behind aging and behind what we believe works, and those core principles are things that you can leverage to hack yourself regardless of income. And yes, I do the craziest stuff that billionaires do and I’m nowhere near a billionaire, but I’m more comfortable than I was when I was 20 and working at an auto parts warehouse. What you’re going to find is that when you understand the principles and you actually have an accurate model of reality, you can do things that you couldn’t do when you believed something else. In each of my books, I write about the things that are free because of a principle, the things that take advantage of new knowledge, things that are low cost, and then the big expensive crazy stuff. So what I’m doing with Smarter Not Harder is I say, all right, most people don’t even know what health means.