Moderator: So, our next speak­er is a bio­hack­er, a blog­ger, body mod artist, and a nurse. He’s col­lab­o­rat­ed on projects rang­ing from [?] pep­tides that extend ERM sleep all the way to non-newtonian armor implants. He actu­al­ly hosts the annu­al event Grindfest in Tehachapi, California. A lit­tle fun fact about him, he actu­al­ly placed third in the Biohack Village oxy­tocin pok­er tour­na­ment, and he per­formed an implant on tran­shu­man­ist pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Zoltan Istvan. Now here to present his talk on Biohackers Die,” ladies and gen­tle­men, Jeffrey Tibbetts.

Jeffrey Tibbetts: Okay, so. How’s it going? I’m a bio­hack­er. And I have done a few high-profile grinds, okay. So a num­ber of peo­ple in this room and I were on an MTV show, snort­ing a pep­tide called VIP that rat mod­els have shown to rad­i­cal­ly alter cir­ca­di­an rhythms. It did­n’t do much to our sleep cycles, but we did find that it seri­ous­ly boost­ed visu­al mem­o­ry func­tion on two meth­ods of test­ing. We’re still crunch­ing the num­bers on that study but I think I had a lot more fun last Defcon where we all snort­ed the oxy­tocin. That’s the so-called trust or bond­ing hor­mone. And we did this up in a hotel room and then com­pet­ed in a pok­er tournament.

I’ve also done some crit­i­cal work with nerve growth fac­tors. And you know, we found that intro­duc­ing NGF at the point of inci­sion when implant­i­ng a mag­net actu­al­ly increas­es sen­si­tiv­i­ty and pro­vides a bet­ter result in terms abil­i­ty to per­ceive fields. 

So essen­tial­ly, where groups like Grindhouse Wetware or Cyberise or Dangerous Things are focus­ing real­ly on cre­at­ing tech­nol­o­gy to place in the body, my focus tends to be on ways to alter a per­son­’s phys­i­ol­o­gy or anato­my, which is basi­cal­ly the antithe­sis of my day job. As a reg­is­tered nurse in an ER, my objec­tive’s bring­ing peo­ple back into nor­mal lim­its. I’m for­tu­nate that I still get to be involved with all the cool new devices being devel­oped because you always need some­one will­ing to cut you open and shove things inside.

So I’ve done hun­dreds of pro­ce­dures at this point, rang­ing in com­plex­i­ty from the quick poke of an RFID injec­tor like you see Zoltan get­ting here, to bilat­er­al armor implants run­ning the length of the recip­i­en­t’s shins. 

As far as I can tell every­thing I do is legal and falls under laws per­tain­ing to body mod­i­fi­ca­tion. I mean, I think it’s legal. Of course, say­ing some­thing’s legal does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean it’s safe, which is the focus of what I’m going to talk about today.

I’ve been active in the grind­ing com­mu­ni­ty pret­ty much since its incep­tion, and it’s only late­ly that I’ve real­ly been will­ing to admit even to myself that some­one’s gonna die, okay. And some­thing’s going to go wrong and some­body will die. 

So grinders are a com­mu­ni­ty com­mit­ted to rad­i­cal­ly alter­ing the body. And so some­times it’s treat­ments like tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic, or direct cur­rent stim­u­la­tion. It could be through the use of pre­vi­ous­ly untest­ed chem­i­cals like VIP. Often it takes the form of implant­ed devices. All these approach­es come with risks. What I’m going to focus on today is why despite all the risks being tak­en, a grinder has­n’t died yet.

If you did­n’t know about Tim Cannon and Circadia pri­or to this Defcon, I’m sure you know now. People have had a lot to say about his project and not all of it was pos­i­tive. I’m going to read three com­ments that I found about Tim.

I guess if you want flesh eat­ing bac­te­ria, sep­sis and such, get one stuck into your body at a chop shop.
Jenn bioshockz the world on sto​ryleak​.com

The assump­tion under­ly­ing this type of com­men­t’s that we’re all incom­pe­tent and with a total dis­re­gard for ster­ile tech­nique and safe­ty. Trust me this isn’t the case. I don’t know why, but media folk love to record argu­ments and fam­i­ly dra­ma. But they always stop record­ing dur­ing the hours spent clean­ing and autoclaving. 

You idiots need to look more into poten­tial side effects pri­or to doing these things.
Rlewein com­ment on Meet the grinders: The humans using tech to live for­ev­er

So on top of being incom­pe­tent, we’re also total­ly igno­rant. Despite the months and in some cas­es even years that we spend on projects, peo­ple assume we know noth­ing at all. Once again this is not the case.

This is my favorite:

When it comes to some­thing like cut­ting some­one’s body open, skin open, and putting some for­eign object under the skin, then it should be done by pro­fes­sion­al peo­ple, not just peo­ple at home.
Von Cyborg, quot­ed in ​The Half Life of Body Hacking

I like this one because it acknowl­edges that yes, some­one out there has the skill to do this stuff but, it’s not us, right? I think the best way to address these con­cerns is by show­ing exact­ly how much knowl­edge and skill goes into even the most basic of procedures. 

So first off yes, there are grinders that are per­form­ing pro­ce­dures in their garages, okay. Let’s take a look at one. 

It’s kin­da cut off, but still. As you can see in the slide, all of the walls are non-porous. They’re wipeable. There’s a HEPA-filtered air sup­ply. There’s over­head sur­gi­cal light­ing. There’s also a non-porous wipeable pro­ce­dure chair. Off to the left where you can’t see, there’s a scrub sink. There’s a patient mon­i­tor. There’s an elec­tro­sur­gi­cal unit over stuffed in the cor­ner. An IV pump. There’s a bio­haz­ard dis­pos­al bin. A sharps dis­pos­al bin. I’m still work­ing on putting in oxy­gen and an air sup­ply. Yes, this garage is not on par with an OR found in a hos­pi­tal, but it’s bet­ter than most pro­ce­dure rooms that you find in clin­ics, to be honest.

And the most impor­tant aspects of this entire room, though, is that it’s designed to be eas­i­ly cleaned. And clean­li­ness is usu­al­ly a crit­ic’s first point of con­tention. Clean is not good enough, right? Contrary to pop­u­lar belief, oper­at­ing rooms are not ster­ile. The best you can hope for is dis­in­fect­ed. People mix up, all the time, ster­il­iza­tion and dis­in­fec­tion and antisepsis. 

So, anti­sep­tics are cleansers that reduce the num­ber of pathogens on the skin. Grinders use either a mix­ture of 70% alco­hol with a 4% chlorhex­i­dine glu­conate, or povidone-iodine 12% to dis­in­fect the inci­sion site. Either works. I pre­fer chlorhex­i­dine because it has a resid­ual action.

In terms of dis­in­fec­tants, they are chem­i­cals which kill the major­i­ty of infec­tious agents on a sur­face. We use a 1:10 dilu­tion of bleach for sur­faces, and qua­ter­nary ammo­nia for more del­i­cate items like equip­ment and tubes and cords and things.

In terms of ster­il­iza­tion, ster­il­iza­tion is the elim­i­na­tion of all life. You’ve got to ster­il­ize any­thing that touch­es the inci­sion site, like tools and gauze. This is my Ritter M9-022. It works by bring­ing tools 121 Celsius at a pres­sure of 15 PSI for 30 minutes. 

So, of course just hav­ing these tools and sup­plies does­n’t mean you’re using them right. And some­one could total­ly still claim that we’re incom­pe­tent based off of this. But if I took the time to real­ly explain how to scrub in and dis­in­fect the envi­ron­ment and the use of the ultra­son­ic baths and enzymes and pro­tec­tants pri­or to auto­clav­ing, we’d nev­er actu­al­ly make it to my point. So, we are using them correctly.

So real­ly I mean, are we com­pe­tent? I know we’re com­pe­tent as the guys work­ing in the hos­pi­tal OR, because I know those guys and I was trained by those guys, okay. And are we igno­rant? Well, I guess the ques­tion I have is why aren’t oper­at­ing rooms ster­ile? There was a grinder project a few years back where some peo­ple made a cham­ber, and the recip­i­ent would place his hand in the box and the whole pro­ce­dure was per­formed by an artist reach­ing through this gloved aper­ture, right. They would fill the entire cham­ber with a vapor­ized dis­in­fec­tant imme­di­ate­ly before doing the pro­ce­dure. I could­n’t find a pic­ture of this. 

But what I did find a pic­ture of… This is a hydro­gen per­ox­ide vapor sys­tem being made by a com­pa­ny called Bioquell, and it’s been tri­alled at John Hopkins. I’d say no, we’re not igno­rant. On the con­trary we’re right at the fore­front if not beyond what the med­ical field is already doing. I mean, this is being tri­alled at Johns Hopkins, we had a few years back some­one already try­ing the same type of idea. 

Okay, any­ways. Our next con­sid­er­a­tion is anal­ge­sia. I can’t use some of the meth­ods because of where I live, but plen­ty of grinders can and do. The gold stan­dard is infil­tra­tion of lido­caine. Because a lot of pro­ce­dures we do are in dis­tal areas with poor cir­cu­la­tion we use 2% lido­caine with­out epi­neph­rine. Epinephrine is great in oth­er areas because it con­stricts blood flow and this keeps the lido­caine in the area longer and it actu­al­ly decreas­es bleed­ing. So like in fin­gers and ears, though, it can restrict blood flow enough to cause necrosis.

So most grinders are using a tech­nique called a flex­or ten­don sheath nerve block. That’s where you take a 25 gauge nee­dle and you insert it at about 45 degrees just dis­tal to the pal­mar crease. This blocks pain through­out the entire fin­ger for as long as an hour and a half. 

In places where we can’t use infil­tra­tion, peo­ple usu­al­ly opt for a top­i­cal lido­caine gel. A 5% gel applied for an hour and a half can pro­vide a degree of anal­ge­sia as well. I feel per­son­al­ly that this method takes too long and peo­ple still com­plain of pain. This is an issue in med­i­cine as well. Few peo­ple like get­ting stuck with an IV. There is a prod­uct called EMLA Cream which can be applied before­hand to numb the site. The prob­lem, though, is it takes so long to be effec­tive physi­cians sel­dom even both­er with it. Some kids some­times get it but that’s about it. 

So we’ve been tri­al­ing a method of admin­is­tra­tion called ion­to­phere­sis. Iontopheresis uses 120 mil­liamps to active­ly push lido­caine through the skin. Using ion­to­phere­sis we’ve got­ten far bet­ter con­trol of pain in as lit­tle as thir­ty min­utes, you know. And this is some­thing I’ve nev­er heard of actu­al­ly being used in the med­ical field.

So once again you know, are we com­pe­tent? Yeah, we’re using the same methods—the same safe methods—that you’d find in a hos­pi­tal set­ting. And are we knowl­edge­able? Yeah. We’re actu­al­ly push­ing beyond. Were inno­vat­ing at this point, you know. 

In terms of con­trol­ling bleed­ing, we con­trol bleed­ing with tourni­quets. Did you know first aid kits don’t even come with tourni­quets any­more? The improp­er use of a tourni­quet can lead to some real­ly seri­ous prob­lems. These prob­lems are usu­al­ly because of either too much pres­sure or leav­ing them on for too long. For a pro­ce­dure like a mag­net, though, we don’t have to wor­ry about pres­sure if we use a prod­uct intend­ed for fin­gers. Devices like T‑RINGs. They apply less force than a tra­di­tion­al tourni­quet, and they let us work with­out blood to obstruct our view. 

In terms of time, you don’t even get a change in your lab val­ues indi­cat­ing mus­cle dam­age has occurred until about the thirty-minute mark. And two hours is con­sid­ered the point at which last­ing dam­age starts to occur. Most pro­ce­dures we do take maybe ten min­utes, tops. And for more inva­sive pro­ce­dures we do use sur­gi­cal tourni­quet. This approach requires a lot more spe­cial­ized knowl­edge. We had to pay atten­tion to details like the prop­er limb occlu­sion pres­sure and we have to be real­ly care­ful about record­ing time. But I’m to skip over those details pret­ty much in the name of brevi­ty because… But I don’t want you to con­fuse this admis­sion as being due to incom­pe­tence or ignorance. 

So where are we? We have a dis­in­fect­ed pro­ce­dure area and ster­ile tools. We have a clean pro­ce­dure site and clean hands. We’re pain free. Bleeding’s con­trolled, so we must be ready to start cutting.

Where do we cut? The pri­or­i­ty of course is avoid­ing blood ves­sels and nerves. Then we wor­ry about try­ing to min­i­mize scar­ring. Skin has a grain, kin­da like how wood does. The col­la­gen fibers are nat­u­ral­ly ori­ent­ed in one direc­tion called Langer’s lines. You get these real­ly cool topo­log­i­cal maps show­ing the direc­tion of collagen.

You also have to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the direc­tion of max­i­mum skin ten­sion, okay. This is a dif­fer­ent set of anatom­i­cal skin lines called Kraissl’s lines. Plastic sur­geons usu­al­ly place inci­sions that are par­al­lel to relaxed skin ten­sion lines. Those are known as Borges lines, unless there’s a near­by nat­ur­al wrin­kle that would hide your inci­sion instead. So basi­cal­ly, choos­ing the inci­sion site to max­i­mize aes­thet­ics is more dif­fi­cult than you would think. 

The back of someone's hand, showing a large bulge where an implant has been placed. Along one side of the bulge at left is visible an older healed scar, with another newer one also visible along a different side.

So I switched out a Northstar implant for my friend Bird. She’s in the back right here. When we switched out the Northstar— Oh, by the way she real­ly digs scars any­ways, and she explic­it­ly gave me the okay to try a dif­fer­ent approach. Anyway, so I incized par­al­lel to Langer’s lines, hop­ing to min­i­mize the scar­ring on her hand. And I did­n’t real­ly account for the skin ten­sion on the skin. So when it was heal­ing you know, when­ev­er she moved her hand around, it was pulling on the inci­sion site. 

So basi­cal­ly, because I did­n’t account for the ten­sion on the skin, it was con­stant­ly pulling and I was real­ly dis­ap­point­ed because the inci­sion end­ed up scar­ring worse. So if you can see right here, along this line this is the orig­i­nal inci­sion point right here. And right here’s the inci­sion that I made when I was switch­ing them out. I mean, the orig­i­nal one is about a year of heal­ing fur­ther along than this one, but still I think that it’s going to end up being a big­ger scar over­all. So it’s kin­da one of these things where we’re still play­ing with it and try­ing to fig­ure out the best approach­es. But it’s not some­thing that I would say we’re igno­rant about.

Once again, are we ignor­ing or incom­pe­tent in this area? I’d say it’s a wash. I’ve seen beau­ti­ful work done by both plas­tic sur­geons and body mod­i­fi­ca­tion artists. At the BDYHAX con­fer­ence, I got to hang out Russ Foxx. He’s like a god in the body mod com­mu­ni­ty. His work’s beau­ti­ful and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not at his lev­el of com­pe­ten­cy. I’ve also got to sit through a num­ber pro­ce­dures per­formed by one of the top plas­tic sur­geons in the LA area. There’s no way I can do what either of them do. That said, peo­ple don’t come to me to make them pret­ty. What peo­ple expect is the safe place­ment of a safe device, which is some­thing that grinders are com­pe­tent to provide.

So, in terms inci­sions. How we make the inci­sion depends on what we’re doing. Objects in glass cap­sules like tri­tium fire­flies or RFIDs can be placed using an injec­tor. So, for oth­er implants we use a 15 or 11A scalpel blade on a num­ber 3 han­dle. A scalpel’s held with a pen­cil grip in the dom­i­nant hand, while the non-dominant hand pro­vides ten­sion on the skin. We make the inci­sion slight­ly larg­er than the object to be implant­ed. When you get below the der­mis, the con­nec­tive tis­sue tears easily. 

The artist choos­es between blunt or sharp dis­sec­tion. You can sep­a­rate con­nec­tive tis­sue with a probe, but I found blunt dis­sec­tion caus­es more trau­ma and increas­es heal­ing time, so usu­al­ly opt for sharp dis­sec­tion with a scalpel. Sharp dis­sec­tion comes with the risk of cut­ting through an impor­tant struc­ture. So if I’m work­ing in an area I’m less famil­iar with, I like to go with blunt. 

The point of sep­a­rat­ing the tis­sue’s to cre­ate a pock­et for the implant to sit in. It’s best to cre­ate a pock­et that’s some­what larg­er than the device you want you want skin lax­i­ty. You want enough give in that area so that you can approx­i­mate the inci­sion with­out it being under tension. 

Okay, so bagel head. Are you guys famil­iar with what this is? Basically a year or two back there was a physi­cian who start­ed post­ing on the bio­hack forums. And sug­gest­ed we a try tech­nique that’s called flu­id dis­sec­tion. It’s like the bagel head thing right here. The idea’s you put flu­id under the area under pres­sure and it cre­ates a pock­et for you. So in this case that’s just nor­mal saline that was done with an IV nee­dle, and you fill up the area and you push with your thumb in the mid­dle. Pretty much the saline reab­sorbs with­in I don’t know, six to eight hours. 

Anyways, so his idea was that we could do like how you do a TB test. And I’ve done this hun­dreds times as a nurse. When you’re doing a TB test you’re actu­al­ly doing an intra­der­mal injec­tion. You’re going to go into the skin, do a lit­tle injec­tion and it makes a bub­ble. And his idea was essen­tial­ly that we could make this big saline flu­id pock­et that way, and then just cut right into it, slip the mag­net in and no prob­lem, you know. I was some­what crit­i­cal of it. I record­ed a video where I tried out the flu­id dis­sec­tion method three dif­fer­ent times in three dif­fer­ent areas. And it did­n’t work at all. 

The weird thing, though, was when I post­ed what I found, okay. So I went up and I post­ed what I found. The guy just like, flipped his shit. Despite giv­ing him cred­it and only post­ing the video as a direct response to the thread he start­ed he accused me of pla­gia­riz­ing his work. He swore to nev­er help us again and quit the forums. Why would I pla­gia­rize a tech­nique that does­n’t work, you know? I seri­ous­ly won­der if it’d worked out if he would have still been upset. I think the real issue may have been an ego bruised by some­one with like one fifth of his cre­den­tials demon­strat­ing that he’s wrong.

So, clos­ing the inci­sion. We use a non-absorbable suture like polypropy­lene with a 38 cur­va­ture reverse cut­ting nee­dle. I taught a class dur­ing Grindfest a few years back on sutur­ing. And the three tech­niques we prac­ticed were sim­ple inter­rupt­ed, run­ning sutures, and hor­i­zon­tal mat­tress­es per­formed with an instru­ment tie. These types can used for prob­a­bly 90% of pro­ce­dures we’re doing, and we’re just not doing any­thing com­pli­cat­ed enough to require a larg­er repertoire.

The tech­nique’s then removed. We let a small amount of blood out, flush­ing out the wound. And then we apply pres­sure for a minute and the bleed­ing stops. The wound’s then dressed using Steri-Strips. Initial heal­ing takes around three weeks, dur­ing which the focus is on con­trol­ling inflam­ma­tion using ice and ibuprophen. Sutures are pulled some­time between day three and sev­en, after which Steri-Strips are kept on to pre­vent the site from reopen­ing. Collagen fibers rein­force the wound after a month, although wound mat­u­ra­tion and remod­el­ing can take more than a year. Again for the sake of brevi­ty I’m omit­ting a lot of infor­ma­tion that I would con­sid­er essential. 

As much focus as we’ve put into safe implan­ta­tion, the inser­tion of the device is actu­al­ly the sim­ple part. It’d be easy to stand here for anoth­er hour speak­ing exclu­sive­ly about bio­com­pat­i­bil­i­ty. The com­mu­ni­ty is con­stant­ly brain­storm­ing new types of coat­ings and ways to apply them. Medical devices like peace­mak­ers are usu­al­ly coat­ed in either a bio­com­pat­i­ble alloy like tita­ni­um nitride, or a poly­mer like pary­lene. The sim­plest bio­hacks don’t require even these. 

When injectable RFIDs were first being mar­ket­ed I was con­cerned because they’re encap­su­lat­ed in glass. My con­cern, and the con­cern of prob­a­bly a lot of peo­ple, is that if the glass breaks in your body it seems like it could cause harm. So I was involved in the test­ing of this idea. And what we found is it takes so much force to break these things that if it hap­pens, the glass is the least of your wor­ries. I mean sure it’ll break if you dri­ve over your hand, right. 

Another con­cern I’ve seen pop up over over and over is research indi­cat­ing that RFID implants can cause tumors. So there are jour­nal arti­cles about this. Rats and mice, par­tic­u­lar­ly the types used in labs, are par­tic­u­lar­ly prone to tumors. These stud­ies have shown that as many as 10% the rats devel­oped a harm­less tumor near the RFID cap­sule. They’re called post-injection sar­co­mas. What you don’t real­ize is these sar­co­mas occur in [?] mod­els regard­less of whether the RFID is there or not. It hap­pens in cats too, okay. It has some­thing to do with the ani­mal’s inabil­i­ty to han­dle oxida­tive stress. Cats just some­times get tumors if you poke them with a nee­dle. Its like aceta­minophen. What’s poi­son to a cat isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a poi­son to us.

Dogs on the oth­er hand, they sel­dom ever get post-injection sar­co­mas. I only found one case study ever of a dog they found this type of tumor in. We’ve hun­dreds of thou­sands of RFIDs in dogs. These stud­ies, they just can’t be applied to human appli­ca­tions. I’ve nev­er heard or seen of an RFID being reject­ed, break­ing inside of some­one, or caus­ing a tumor to form. 

Most projects, how­ev­er, they don’t fit in glass. So ear­ly work like the Circadia used sil­i­cone. It’s a mate­r­i­al that’s been safe­ly used by the body mod com­mu­ni­ty for years. It has its dis­ad­van­tages though, and we’ve almost entire­ly replaced it with tita­ni­um nitride and pary­lene, the same coat­ings as bio­med­ical devices. 

I sub­scribe to a jour­nal that dis­cuss­es bio­coat­ings, and I came across an arti­cle talk­ing about a method devel­oped which could apply a lay­er of dia­mond. When I con­tact­ed the guy respon­si­ble for the research, he helped me pro­duce a batch of neodymi­um iron boron mag­nets coat­ed in dia­mond. Out of the ten I’ve implant­ed only two have had prob­lems. We haven’t yet deter­mined if these prob­lems were relat­ed to a defect in man­u­fac­tur­ing, a prob­lem with dia­mond coat­ings, or sim­ply because of events relat­ed to heal­ing. But this is anoth­er exam­ple of the bio­hack­ing com­mu­ni­ty not only match­ing the dili­gence required in med­ical devices but striv­ing to exceed them.

There are many con­sid­er­a­tions that go into mak­ing implants I’m not even qual­i­fied to address. I know there’s a lot of work regard­ing appro­pri­ate bat­ter­ies. It’s obvi­ous some­thing equiv­a­lent to a Samsung burst­ing into flames under the skin could be lethal. But there are more sub­tle issues like outgassing. 

Bottom line is we don’t expect our implants to fail but we have to engi­neer them so that if they do they do so harm­less­ly. And we have to per­form tests to deter­mine if we suc­ceed­ed in mak­ing them safe. For devices to be approved by the FDA you need ISO 109903[sic] cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. This requires cyto­tox­i­c­i­ty test­ing like direct con­tact tests or agar dif­fu­sion tests. Sensitization assays are used to deter­mine whether the mate­ri­al’s going to cause hyper­sen­si­tiv­i­ty or an aller­gic reaction. 

Basically with these tests, we have no oblig­a­tion to do these tests. We’re not in any way oblig­at­ed by the FDA or any­one to essen­tial­ly be per­form­ing these tests and we still are. I mean, if you look at what Grindhouse has done, they’ve done these cyto­tox­i­c­i­ty test. If you look at some of the stuff we’ve done with the dif­fer­ent coat­ings and [inaudi­ble] stuff, I mean we’re doing the major­i­ty of tests with I think— What we’re miss­ing, pret­ty much nobody does multi-generational tests to see if you know, four gen­er­a­tions down the road there’s going to be prob­lems. But I mean with the major­i­ty of mate­ri­als we’re work­ing with it’s already been done, with the exact same mate­ri­als. And yet we’re still repeat­ing these tests just because in the com­mu­ni­ty were just so… We put so much empha­sis on try­ing to cre­ate a safe product—you do this the right way, okay.

So despite how sim­ple some­thing like a mag­net implant seems to be, it requires a lot of work and a lot of research. This is work grinders are doing and skills we’re learn­ing. Are we com­pe­tent? Absolutely. There may be a safer and bet­ter way to do these things but if there is I’m will­ing to bet grinders will be amongst the first to put them into practice. 

Are we igno­rant? No. We study and prac­tice our craft with­out being blind­ed by ego. 

Should we wait for those who con­sid­er them­selves to be pro­fes­sion­als to give us their bless­ing? Look, no sur­geon’s going to be will­ing to do the things we’re doing. Medicine returns the body to the state we con­sid­er nor­mal. It’s not the pur­suit of becom­ing more than human.

The body mod­i­fi­ca­tion com­mu­ni­ty is sim­i­lar­ly unsuit­able. Biohacking’s root­ed in coop­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion. There are great guys like Hayworth and Russ Foxx but body mod­i­fi­ca­tion in gen­er­al is poi­soned by an unwill­ing­ness to col­lab­o­rate, okay. This is fine when we’re talk­ing about nip­ple pierc­ings but grinders are already work­ing on designs for brain-computer inter­fac­ing, you know. I want the skills to place a multi-electrode array and expand on the type of work Kevin Warwick did fif­teen years ago. I don’t know any physi­cians will­ing, or body mod­i­fi­ca­tion artists capa­ble, of doing this. There are no mas­ters, there are no pro­fes­sion­als. If we’re not skilled enough the only option is to become bet­ter at what we do.

So why is it I’m con­vinced some­one’s going to die? In 2011 there was a BMJ case report titled Body pierc­ing with fatal con­se­quences. A man in his fifties died from a mesen­teric infarct. What that is is basi­cal­ly he had a bel­ly but­ton pierc­ing and it migrat­ed inward, cut off blood flow. I’ve seen about three of these in my career. What hap­pens is they have some kind of GI upset, they open them up for explorato­ry, and their entire gut is already just grey and dead and there’s noth­ing to do. You sew them back up and you tell them, Say good­bye to your fam­i­ly.” Within a day they’re vom­it­ing feces and then they die. It’s ter­ri­ble, okay.

And obvi­ous­ly this is not an excep­tion, you know. There are case after case of peo­ple dying from all kinds of things with pierc­ings— But it’s not just pierc­ings. That’s not the only thing that scares me. I mean, I’m con­vinced some­one is going to die because there are between two and four deaths a year on aver­age in the US from peo­ple shak­ing vend­ing machines. People take every pre­cau­tion or are about metic­u­lous after­care— I mean, it’s still a risk, man. Someday, it’s a num­bers game and some­body’s going to die. 

The prob­lem with this is that there’s going to be that back­lash from the first inevitable death, right. So far the medi­a’s been kind to us. Everything we do. I mean like, peo­ple have been doing pierc­ings for…into antiq­ui­ty. And yet we put a stu­pid mag­net in and it’s like, They’re cyborgs, man! They’re inno­vat­ing!” No no no, we’re not real­ly doing that amaz­ing stuff. But you know, the way they’re pitch­ing is we’re doing this amaz­ing—, or we’re doing some­thing dif­fer­ent than every­one else. 

The prob­lem with that is when some­body dies, that’s just going to blow up in our face. I mean, the way it’s going to work is that same sen­sa­tion­al­ism that blew it up as a hundred-fold of us doing these things, it’s also going to be you know, Oh my god, these dan­ger­ous peo­ple doing these dan­ger­ous things.” 

And we know what they’re going to say about it. What’s going to be is they’re going to say we’re igno­rant, and we should’ve looked into the risks of what we’re doing. They’re going to say we’ll all get sep­sis and flesh-eating bac­te­ria. They’re going to assume we’re incom­pe­tent and they’ll say pro­ce­dures like this should be left to some­one else. Someone who has the knowl­edge and com­pe­ten­cy to do it right. 

I mean, come on guys. It goes like this. Look, we dri­ve cars around, right? And we think it’s okay even though look at the num­ber of deaths that occur from cars. No one’s say­ing we’re going to stop dri­ving because it’s too dan­ger­ous, right. Beyond that, even beyond neces­si­ty, there’s…you know, peo­ple smoke. He smokes cig­a­rettes, it’s killing this many peo­ple, and yet it’s accept­able in soci­ety. We smoke cigarettes. 

But what we’re doing, it’s also risky. But you know what? It’s a risk we’re tak­ing because we believe in it. We’re try to cre­ate a future, you know. We’re doing some­thing that’s mean­ing­ful. And so I don’t have any­thing to say about real­ly the back­lash when the first grinder dies. We’re screwed. But, I’ll tell you what I do know. I do know that that per­son that first dies, they died doing some­thing they believe in. They died doing some­thing that they researched and knew the risks, and they did it any­ways. And they died in a way that they felt was meaningful. 

Audience mem­ber: Damn straight.

Tibbetts: Yeah. So that’s all I got­ta say. Thank you.

Further Reference

The DEF CON Biohacking Village site