What Is ‘Body Hacking’ and What Does It Mean for Crypto?

These ultimate HODLers are implanting crypto wallets under their skin

By Alissa Fleck

Increasingly, our world is coming to resemble the fantastic futures portended by so many sci-fi authors. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the convergence of body-hacking and crypto.

Also called biohacking, body-hacking is the Transhumanistic process of implanting technology to augment the body’s current functions. In the case of crypto, this has meant Bitcoin holders bio-implanting wallets into their own skin. Is this the ultimate personal key? Or just another physical vulnerability in the guise of increased security?

Of course, crypto is not the first — nor only — realm where body hacking has been explored. Below, we consider key moments in body hacking, and wonder why they never garnered a following.

Fleshy Flash Drives

Back in 2013, an artist implanted an RFID chip into his hand, allowing him to access data stored on the chip when it came into contact with his smartphone. With advancements in Near-Field Communication (NFC) and RFID, it’s conceivable that such a chip could pair with and access dozens of devices with a simple hand gesture.

An implanted chip is one of the more plausible body hacks, as there are a number of potential use cases which could justify the use of such a device in a more advanced form.

Truly Built-In Headphones

Also in 2013, Rich Lee rigged up a pair of literal in-ear headphones by implanting magnets into each tragus, which received transmissions from a coil worn around his neck.

Implanted headphones may be more difficult to lose than the store-bought variety, but Lee said the quality left something to be desired. However, he also speculated his device could eventually have other applications — everything from echolocation and GPS to improving his vision.

In 2014, a similar hack also allowed a partially deaf man with hearing aids to hear WiFi.

Subdermal LEDs

Within the Transhumanism movement, there’s plenty of crossover between functionality and artistic expression. Such is the case with the Northstar implant — a “bioluminescent” light source that’s implanted into the hand and lights up for about 10 seconds at a time.

While the Northstar has become primarily a popular accessory to flaunt at hacking conferences, a future version of the gadget could, theoretically, provide all sorts of biometric feedback to the wearer.

A Very Private Key

In 2014, Martijn Wismeijer had his first near-field communication (NFC) microchip implanted in his hand. By 2018, having lost 80% of his crypto to hacks, thefts and exchange vulnerabilities, the self-described “Mr. Bitcoin” was storing crypto on these same chips. Speaking to CNBC, he claimed to know “at least 50” more crypto-chip biohackers in the Prague area.

On one hand, subdermal wallets would seem to present the ultimate security. (No more lost keys.) On the other, telling the world that you’re carrying crypto 24-7 might not be the smartest move.

Wismeijer admitted as much. As CNBC reported, “[Wismeijer] doesn’t store large amounts because of the attention he has received. To avoid hacking threats or physical threats, Wismeijer stores just enough for a few beers or a coffee.”

What’s the future of biohacking and crypto?

Despite these advancements in implanted tech, experimentation with body hacking continues to bump up against the ethical boundaries of our society. A pacemaker, punctum plug or stent may be viewed as a type of body modification with the power to save — or overwhelmingly improve the quality of — someone’s life, but what of modifications meant to just make life easier?

The government may be relatively powerless to legislate the use of digital currency, but it still has some say over what we do with our bodies.

Still, ethical and legal issues aside, body hacking — and those willing to embed foreign objects in their skin in the name of science — is certainly laying the groundwork for what will one day be viewed as revolutionary technology.

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