Why Biohackers Verge On Changing The Wellness Industry

Why Biohackers Verge On Changing The Wellness Industry

Credit: Tom Mullen

Daytime view of Lake Geneva from Glion Institute above Montreux, Switzerland

Newspapers and newscasts pump out constant scenarios of a world seething in crisis. Governments which appear to be functioning are covertly on the verge of collapse; climate modifications herald a death knell for life; biotechnology will eliminate food, while wars and political crises ravage our planet.

And yet—according to the ‘Wellness 2030′ report by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute of Economic and Social Studies—life expectancy in the U.S. and Europe almost doubled between the years 1900 and 2014 (up from 41 to 76 years in the U.S. and from 43 to 80 years in Europe), extreme poverty in the world diminished from 75% to 10% within the past 70 years and the average work week in Western societies has dropped about one third since 1900. Psychologist and author Steven Pinker even produced a TED talk illustrating how dramatically our global scenario appears to be generally improving.

The Glion Institute for Higher Education is stunningly perched on a steep mountainside above the beautiful city of Montreux in Switzerland (where Quincy Jones and Carlos Santana occasionally jam together while attending the famed annual Jazz Festival adjacent to Lake Geneva). The reputed school hosts several hundred hospitality students each semester. The renovated interior includes a casual modern atmosphere, and students tend both the bar and new restaurant to practice their skills.

Weeks ago at Glion, inside a hillside classroom with a stunning view, a group listened to Mariana Palmeiro—Head of Wellness to Business Executive Education for Glion, and Mary Tabacchi—Ph.D at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. They spoke about future trends in the wellness and hospitality industries. They focused on the above-mentioned GDI report titled ‘Wellness 2030: The new techniques of happiness.’ The report makes surprising observations to those unaware of the galloping pace of the industry.

The report includes a prediction that the wellness industry will become an extension of the data economy, where ‘only service providers who speak most directly to our own individual prospects for happiness will prevail.’

Other conclusions are more eye opening.

Although apps now exist to monitor our exercise patterns as well as to optimize our breathing and health regimes, the report predicts that the next generation of wellness technology will infiltrate our bodies and change human nature. This relates to biohacking.

‘Biohackers,’ the report explains, are a ‘subculture of people with a whole range of different backgrounds…driven by a pioneering spirit,’ (who) ‘want to liberate themselves from the limitations of nature, age and disease.’ Biohackers, the report continues, are the new ‘pioneers of wellness.’  They will ‘think beyond the classical understanding of wellness’ and want to ‘manipulate our physiology in order to increase our well-being and happiness.’

That’s correct: ‘manipulate our physiology.’

In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as a ‘state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.’ Wellness, according to a classic definition created by Halbert L. Dunn in the 1960’s, is a dynamic process where a human moves toward even higher potentials of functioning. Crudely summarized, health is about waking up and feeling good, while wellness is about deciding to go for a walk in the countryside to feel even better and to improve health.

Happiness, however, relates to a person’s satisfaction with life, their level of joy and their general well being. Intuitively it may seem that better health and wellness always promote happiness, but factors such as genetics, environment, and relationships also impinge on what makes us smile.

In the past century, a significant determinant of our happiness—genetic code—was out of our control. The report indicates that during the 21st century, biotechnology, ‘consciousness technology,’ and ‘biohacking’ may move the needle on how we can influence genes, and our very moods. The language is not vague: ‘The next generation of happiness technologies…go to work directly on our genes or brain cells.’

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