The Disease Of OK
OK Just Doesn’t Hack It Anymore
Guest Post From The Neurohacker Collective
Neurohacker Reports From The Front – Black Comedy Isn’t Funny
There is a latent, underappreciated black comedy within our awkward attempts at concern for one another.
The cashier checking our items at a store says: “…and how are you doing today?”.
The long lost friend we bump into on the street asks: “…so how have you been?”.
Predictable situational humor would arise if we were to answer these questions in full disclosure. Mercifully, most askers aren’t seeking full disclosure. They do search for a minimal threshold of truth within the design constraints of their capacity to assist. When we tell the cashier that we’re doing OK, most typically means to report that we have no pressing disaster rising to a level of need higher than their own. Like them, we have adequate clothing. We eat well. We have shelter. We are not under immediate physical attack. We are “OK.”
And we’d better be OK.
However, Consider The Prehistory of OK
A very short path to scorn arises with a more fulsome description of not-OK. There are powerful verbal armaments used to limit a wish for anything more: “whiner,” “suck it up,” “deal with it,” “that’s life,” etc. Anyone on the receiving end has likely learned to separate how one claims to feel, from how one actually does feel.
But do note, those who discourage higher expectations of OK are rarely doing so from a place of intended cruelty or malice. In fact, if we treat the design constraints of civilization as prehistoric, such accusations are often needed. In the paleolithic model of a society built on scarce resources, survivalists labor, and with the persistent threat of attack there remains only a small reservoir of patience we can afford to address the needs of most individuals within it.
It’s effortless to see how the evolutionary inheritance of misunderstanding is triggered. A herd can only slow for so long to accommodate the limping. And the necessity of these attacks is not only engrained as a legacy/herd instinct but a quite contemporary one as well. Until very recently, it was hard to foresee a realistic hope for standards of wellness that reaches beyond our common meaning of “OK.” And, however small that standard of wellness, consider the historical repercussions haunting our culture for those who struggled to mask or deny their perceptions of actual personal conflicts.
The Mind and Psychiatry
We are less than a century removed from the term “alienist” being commonly used to describe those whom we now know as psychiatrists. The word is still occasionally used to mean a psychiatrist determining the competency of a defendant to stand trial. The etymology, meaning one who is an expert about alien beings, provides the outdated lens through which we viewed “lunatics” and the “mad.”
The purview of modern psychiatry has, to its credit, made significant gains on the humanization of patients, and (relative) sanity of treatments. And if one hesitates to give conventional modern psychiatry credit for anything positive, first consider the asylums, exorcisms, bloodletting, and skull drillings of the past. In the age of effortless global information, it’s easy to ask why Ayurvedic, TCM [TransCranial Magnetic Stimulation], and various integrative principles didn’t permeate Western medicine earlier.
Fresh Wellness Perspectives – Beyond OK
The short answer: we live now at the dawn of an era which allows for the large transdisciplinary data integration needed to inform an adequate psychiatric framework that, in fact, transcends contemporary “psychiatry.”
Complex and whole systems science, combining with exponentially increasing computational power, are about to pour light over our previously resigned expectations of OK. And until now, it has been entirely understandable to grow weary of those seeking more. Society needs productivity, a certain degree of general contentedness, and an intelligent limitation for individuals placing weight on the scale of need versus service.
The Floating Line
Thus drawn, the line in the sand floats between the diseased, and the OK. We know, intellectually, it is harder to suggest some precise blade between the two. However, if one’s general psychological profile is deemed north of OK – north of the interventions of formal medicine or diagnosable illness – then one is fully expected to accept the challenges of life without a more capable set of experiences from which to function.
With regards to understanding functions of the human body, this hard line in Western thinking began to soften during the early 1980’s. While Dr. Halbert Dunn published High-Level Wellness in 1961, the cultural inroads, societal acceptance, to such reasoning remained so minimal that when famed journalist Dan Rather introduced a CBS 60 Minutes piece on the concept 18 years later in 1979, he exclaimed “Wellness. There’s a word you don’t hear every day.”
Physical Wellness Evolved
In the intervening 37 years, the physical wellness market has exploded: fitness watches, essential oils, personal trainers, organic food, on and on. Millennials struggle to conceive how high-level care of the body was ever not a primary concern. Today we move forward with the wellness of the mind. Consider this: If one introduces the same awareness paradigm beyond mere physicality, with regards to high-level cognitive care – that is to say, cognitive care for those not suffering from a diagnosable illness or disease – most everyone exhibits a new confusion.
Today it’s a strain to grasp how the mind, the most profound structure in the known universe, can become more than just OK. But once one understands the parallel mind-wellness concept, it is, in fairness, easy to see why the brain is the one region of the body that gives us pause in trying to optimize above an incoming standard of OK.
Brain and biomedical complexity appear at first overwhelming.
The Context and Challenge Of Technology
Let’s not overlook the obvious context; given the current explosive reality of civilization, merely maintaining OK is a challenge, and there is a concomitant fear that an errant manipulation of our brain could result in far more problems. Brain health requires more understanding than experimenting with a new triceps workout or assessing the effects of a gluten-free diet.
But even a cursory examination of our habits and physiology would reveal how that reasoning in mind science is muddled and contradictory. We know, when we drink alcohol, we are significantly enhancing the neurology-governing conscious experience. We also recognize that changed neurologic functioning occurs when we work out, or when we smoke cannabis, or when we have sex, or when we skydive, or when we have a stimulating intellectual conversation, or when we tolerate a psychologically toxic home environment.
From Problems To Solutions
We know, whether via oral ingestion or via external stimulations, specific triggers for biochemical cascade within us, that every action and inaction can affect our neurology. In turn, that change informs the nature of our intellect, our empathy, our creativity, and a vast array of other fundamental components providing our daily experience.
Just as we have determined how the negatives of heavy alcohol consumption and harsh home environments will downgrade long-term neurologic health, we now have a converse and rapidly growing body of empirical evidence for intrinsic and extrinsic neurologic intervention improvements which meaningfully, predictably enhance our human experience and capacity.
The Enhancement Of Normal
These developments arise not in the context of a plan or treatment for a mind disease, but as an upgrade to a feeling of normality.
Neurohacking, which is the ethical upgrading of individual and collective neurologic capacity, is not, nor does it purport to be, treatment for those with diagnosed psychiatric or psychologic conditions. It is, rather, the applied neuroscience domain of the mind-wellness movement, through which far more civilizational change can become actualized, beyond biohacking for physical reasons alone.
Any legitimate neurohacking organization must treat its ability to alter the fabric of collective consciousness with a profound sense of responsibility, exhaustive demand for empiricism, and a comprehensive examination of ethical concerns with each new product, or it would be a misnomer to consider it a scientifically responsible neurohacking organization.
The Reality Of Quality
Just as the quality-control of items occurs within one health food store for efficacy and value, another business may hang that meaningless banner while littering their shelves with items ranging from ineffectual to outright dangerous. With the capacity for civilizational change afoot with widescale optimized neurology, it is certain that organizations, more attracted by profits than purpose, will pour into the market, polluting the airspace of good actors with their static.
Like all emerging market spaces, in time, the products, goods, and services provided by improved measurable insights will separate the agents of static from the agents of confirmed purpose.
Neurohacker Teams Matter
The good actors in this emerging wave of neurohacking, if they are in fact driven by approved, scientifically validated forces, would be well advised to work with each other. The potential for building this network at the mind/brain interface via a passionate and esteemed network of neuroscientists, physicians, computer scientists, and ethicists, holds a possibility for experiential up leveling of societies beyond anything currently conceivable.
As this era begins with product offers in the realm of nootropics, transcranial stimulation, psychometrics, virtual reality, or technologies so nascent that their functions have yet to be coined, the cooperation of purpose-driven minds could result in a legitimate existential sea change for humanity. It could be the first organizational coalescence to yield real solutions for geopolitical staples of hopelessness, or, the final failed wave of real promise, subsumed by cutthroat at-all-costs profit motives.
Insights of Science Content Encourage Improved Process
Neurohacking may be civilization’s last viable countermeasure in attempting to resolve our frightening increases in technological power, with a paralleling growth in human understanding.
While the disease of OK may not kill any individual carrier, it is quite sure to eventually kill the civilization. As our naive brains work hard to process this current exponential curve of technological increase in weaponry and resource extraction, we paradoxically chug along with an increasingly inadequate decision-making filter for capacities they are not evolutionarily equipped to comprehend.
Proactive For Evolution
As the bioscience information grows, we find ourselves increasingly limited by the denial inherent in ‘I’m really OK.’ Mind wellness insights create the possibility to avoid catastrophe through informed change.
Take a moment to envision this impending, crucial collision that is occurring between denial and opportunity for humanity to emerge from the global chaos of now, into a process more balanced and sustainable. It is the collision of our most considerate human ethics, and our emerging outer reaches of technological capacity.
Be Prepared, Denial Is A Reality
Too often, the prospect of neurohacking becomes represented as a caricature, as people turning into mind-robots, and in some way invokes fears of the loss of personhood.
That perception is precisely the opposite of neurohacking insights, as it suggests a careless inelegance of architecting this collision. True neurohacking, is in fact, the art of elevating OK capacities and experiences, to remarkably improved capabilities and experiences, in such a way that retains and values each essential human experience as much as the technologically based information with which it is colliding.
A Predictably Affirmative Vision
Understand this perspective not as some gentle market gesture to appease traditional notions of humanity, but rather a matter of the essential; whether it is Chopin’s piano or Shakespeare’s odes to love, there remains a precision at the core of the human expression, which still eludes our ability to capture with technology alone. Thus, to override the essential human would not merely be a nostalgic loss, but more importantly, a horrific rush forward into technological aggression – which in turn deletes our turnkey organismic sophistication of consciousness – including more profound perspectives we are not yet even close to precisely understanding in its absence.
Rather than overriding ‘The Essential Human,” true neurohacking caters to actualize each essential human, by identifying the blockages inhibiting our most profound insights and expressions. Accomplished correctly, it is the fog lifting over our misunderstandings of each other, so that a combined elevation of group understanding can meet contemporary challenges, while processing each other’s expressions of insight and beauty with a previously unimaginable capacity.
Further Beyond Just OK
Our current standard of OK is coming to an end, whether we choose it to or not.
Previously limited perceptions of OK will stop because we weren’t able to sustain even that lowly bar anymore and because we coalesce the fields of technology, ethics, and individual care to yield a version of human experience more in tune with our highest potential. The capacity of human alteration has entered a period, the next steps, of marked improvements through a higher form of self-determination. 60-day fitness programs and organic spinach may do their part in getting us to the finish line of a long individual life, but it will fall well short of maximizing the joy and beauty of the journey or increasing the odds of a long life for our civilization.
The measure of OK, moving forward from an informed, Neurohacker perspective must be viewed as somewhat similar to the phenomenon of bioamplification. Rather than repressing a sensed toxin-of-experience via low standards of OK, we need to realize that the concentration of toxins amplifies in significance with our increasing ability to affect the whole.
Our Collective Reality Is Here
Neurohacker tools used to enhance our individual experiences present diverse hopes of a new collective reality; the informed precision and networking cooperation with which we use these insights will encourage the outcomes that, in private moments, we all wish for.
Ed Note: Thanks, Daniel and the Neurohacker Team Collective for these provocative insights, and for our delightful audio conversation on the evolution of mind science here at CBJ/084. You and your team live on the front lines of utilitarian mind science and set exemplary plans for next steps. Best wishes on this improved Path with your fresh maps. – cp