Author’s note: I have been thinking a lot since I wrote this article. I deliberately made it very aggressive because I wanted people to talk about it and to pay attention. But some of the aggression went too far and is not aligned with my values.
I want there to be a great future for those of us who (like myself) want to become posthumans. I want to encourage all humans to explore enhancing their health, intelligence and productivity. There is a real risk of being left behind if you do not do that. I also want all of humanity to share in an amazing, grand future, whether they choose to be trans/posthumans or not.
If we do this right, we will have essentially limitless resources so everyone can benefit. Human and posthuman grand futures are compatible.
To that end I edited the article and removed some of the language I feel does not reflect how I see the world. To be clear I am not in any way going back on my aggressive beliefs or goals. I just realized that I was wrong to think that these goals must be in opposition to the goals of others. There is plenty of awesome future for everyone.
I will write another article focused on this topic later on.
I had some free time over the holidays and wrote this article to showcase, on the basis of a personal story, many highly actionable, science-based, approaches and tools that can be used to significantly enhance intelligence.
In my case these include legal/illegal drugs; using sex as a biohacking tool; drinking ketone esters; using beta blockers or testosterone to gain advantage in negotiations; eating only once a day; and a lot more.
Editor’s Note: This story contains some R-rated approaches to bio-hacking. We published it because we want readers to be informed of what’s actually happening in the technology industry. Proceed at your own risk.
I’m a cliche Silicon Valley techie —Russian, Stanford, YCombinator, started a couple large/successful companies, working in artificial intelligence now.
My previous article detailed how, as a 32-year old with no medical problems, I spent ~$200k on enhancing my health. Thousands of tests, medical teams, dozens of prescription drugs.
I openly posted all my data. It shows many health benefits — 3–4x reduction in body fat, very high athletic performance (VO2Max ~70), negligible inflammatory processes, >80% increase in testosterone, and improvements to many biomarkers of aging.
The article became extremely popular and reached millions of readers. Many of you loved it. Many of you felt anger and fear. Aggressive bioenhancement of human abilities has long been a sci-fi dream.
And (if you read the previous article) here is concrete evidence and a lot of data that show it is already working.
I think that what we are doing with biohacking is the beginning of humanity’s split into different species. Enhanced posthumans who will not look anything like the humans of today. Unenhanced humans who choose not to do this for their own reasons.
The reason this cataclysmic shift is coming: intelligence can already be enhanced.
Let’s use the definition the wonderful Prof. Max Tegmark from MIT, uses in his new and highly-recommended book, Life 3.0.
— — — — Intelligence = ability to accomplish complex goals — — — —
Intelligence is applied and multi-dimensional. Intelligence is much more than just IQ or skill at mathematics.
The above definition is critical to understanding this article — re-read it a couple times.
There are many applications of intelligence. But if we drill down, there is a set of intellectual abilities essential to nearly all complex human goals. These could be broken into:
“Intelligence” will refer to these “universally useful intellectual abilities” going forward. We can talk about those of us who have them as “smart” and those who do not as “stupid.” This will piss some of you off, but it really is time we stop pretending we are all equally smart. That sounds nice and PC, but the claim that everyone has roughly the same ability to achieve complex goals is patently false.
If the last part isn’t obvious, test your ability to accomplish complex goals after not sleeping at all, while you have the flu, right after having an intense argument or after drinking 10 shots of espresso.
The above is exactly what the world looks like today. We just need to replace “marathon running” with “intelligence.”
Here is why:
Income is already driving biological inequality, and more of it with every year. From the stats above, we can speculate that men born in 1985 and in the top 1% of income already have a life expectancy of at least 95–100; for women this number is even higher. Even before biohacking. Or the massive progress in biotechnologies anticipated in the coming decades.
To be certain of living to 100 those of us who are well-off and into basic health just need to pay attention to the data.
These trends feel unstoppable, and may even accelerate.
Key point: you can’t be intelligent if you don’t know what you want
If we read all the tactics below without considering goals, we can be left with the impression that Serge is basically saying “mine is the One True Path, everyone needs to copy me, and have sex with models in swing clubs while sipping clomid-ketone smoothies!!”
I optimize my intelligence towards my specific 50-year goal. To build one of the platform companies that give us The Singularity. To help make us immortal posthuman gods that cast off the limits of our biology, and spread across the Universe. To have limitless abundance.
We don’t all have the same goal. But we should accept that the above is indeed my goal, and that I find it incredibly meaningful. Much more so than wasting my life on buying yachts and jets, having children, or giving to charities.
The framework below is designed to enhance our intelligence to get us whatever we want. But you need to know precisely what that is, and I can’t help you figure that out.
I want to be a god. Note the “a god” (as in one of many cool, ultrapowerful and ultraintelligent posthuman beings) not “The God.”
Key point: if you can’t focus, you are really, really fucking stupid
Always start with AI (energy, focus, willpower etc). This is the engine we use to power everything else.
We will dig into all these tools a bit later in the article.
Every time we successfully get into deep flow, we adapt. It becomes easier next time. Every time we procrastinate — flow becomes harder.
A sign we are smart is if we manage to get 5–8 hours of totally focused, truly deep, uninterrupted work with no procrastination.
And still have time and energy for gym, friends, travel, music, sports, sleep, meditation etc. — all of which we are able to be deeply engaged in.
This is feasible. In December, I managed this on 23 days, took 3 days off completely, and got disrupted down to 0–3 hours of deep work for 5 days for various reasons (that can be pruned further).
This level of deep work is easy to maintain, but extremely hard to get to. We are very distractible. The world is very distracting.
A clear sign we are stupid is if we do not read new books, take poor care of our health, rarely have deep conversations with friends, do not learn new skills. Because we are “too busy.”
Although at the end of the day it is hard to write down precisely what valuable progress we have achieved with our busy-ness.
In this case, we are not actually “busy.” We are “stupid.” The good news is that we can become smarter.
This is the part when you write outraged comments about how your job/children prevent you from deep work. Suggestion: find one hour of deep work a day. Use it to learn a new skill — graphic design, coding, whatever. Change your job. Hire a nanny to help with children. Invest the time you freed up into more deep work. This is a gradual upwards cycle of increasing intelligence.
Those of us who feel that the above is too long/hard and want something easier will simply remain stupid.
High Applied Intelligence lets us be captains of our lives.
Key point: daily focus + biohacking = extreme intelligence
If we do a great job out of AI, we will have an enormous resource of energy and focused time. That (we can speculate) only <1% of us will ever achieve.
The question is what to invest it into. Key candidates:
Last month I spent several days reading the (exceptional) Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini (THE guru of persuasion). Went slow. Took notes. Applied ideas to a public talk on biohacking the following week. Distilled the core concepts in a long recommendation-review for friends. This book became a mental model for human behavior. Many of its takeaways help make this article extremely persuasive.
This is one of many things deep work lets us do — truly understand, internalize and apply complex new ideas.
In the last year I read ~40 books + took ~8 online classes (list of recommendations here)+ learned to code; started a new company (Mirror Emoji Keyboard) + raised the highest-valuation Q1 seed round in Silicon Valley + launched a highly-rated product that may well create material financial wealth; wrote biohacking articles that reached millions of readers and helped meet amazing like-minded leaders in Silicon Valley; slept 8.5 hours on average (proofpic in sleep section!) + worked out every week and meditated every other day; made amazing new friends + went on awesome drug trips + had great sex + lived all over the world. Feel truly happy. And excited about continuing this growth trajectory every year for decades.
But let’s compare with 5–10 years ago. I was unhappy, unproductive, fat (27% BF). Carried forward in life by some combination of luck, total denial, and extreme ambition. I was pretty stupid. And I’d never admit it back then to others, or to myself, but my life fucking sucked. Suicidal thoughts appeared a couple times. Luckily never in a serious way.
The point is: biohacking can significantly enhance our lives. Let’s use all the medical technology we can get to enhance our intelligence. Start now. Reinvest all of it over years and decades into building intellectual, financial, social and physiological wealth. Utilize the new technology that is coming. We will get to achieve everything we want. Lead the future. Be healthy and happy.
If you want a health-focused discussion, read the previous article. This one will mention some of the same things. Stuff that makes us healthy is mostly the same stuff that makes us intelligent. But this article is written specifically with the purpose of helping all of us enhance our intelligence.
(There is another, deeper, more interesting reason why I spent all the time writing this. It will become obvious by the end).
Do not mindlessly copy this. I do most of these things with a team of MDs with decades of medical experience led by Peter Attia, one of the top health-optimization doctors in the world.
If you read some of his articles on heart disease prevention, cholesterol, how ketosis enhances athletic performance, and why whether you are fat is not truly about calories you will appreciate the depth of thinking that goes into our decisions. Peter and his team really go after any of their recommendation with the same level of tenacity and dedication.
In particular, we do thousands of tests and know that our interventions do not carry much risk for me. But all of us have different bodies. For example I have kidney function with eGFR of >160 (in the top 1% of 30-year-olds), whereas you might not. This means your risks may be higher. Be cautious.
AGAIN: I am just a guy from the Internet. Not your doctor. I am not responsible for your health and am not telling you to follow my advice blindly.
Key point: if you sleep less than 8 hours or go to sleep at inconsistent times, you are fucking yourself, making yourself stupid, and helping yourself get Alzheimers.
If anyone wants all the science, look into this book — it references hundreds of studies many of which the author (the director of the UC Berkeley Sleep Lab and one of the world’s leading sleep neuroscientists) performed himself. Here we will just list the highlights.
Even minor sleep deprivation (sleeping 6–7 hours); circadian shift (changing sleep time by 1–2 hours a day from one night to the next); or reduction in Deep NREM or REM sleep reduce our intelligence in the following ways:
Plus on top of the Things That Make Us Stupid above, we have: worsened insulin resistance, cancer, cardiovascular disease, car crash risk, athletic performance etc.
I don’t have time to link all the studies but it is in the book. Besides pretty sure most of us will know the above to be true from personal experience. I for one feel like a moron in the afternoon after undersleeping.
In other words, sleep is a major opportunity for intelligence enhancement. It impacts many other things. And for most of us, sleep quality is poor.
First a bit of important theory:
What this means is that if we spend 7 hours in bed we sleep ~6 hours and cut out the last stages of sleep, degrading their unique functions by >80%. If we change our bedtime by 2 hours from one day to the next, we destroy the early stages of sleep and degrade their unique functions by >80%.
KEY POINT: you think sleeping 6 hours or going to sleep 2 hours later degrade sleep marginally, but actually they do so very severely.
So sleeping better means spending more time asleep, in the right sleep phases, at the right and consistent time of the day.
The first thing to do is measure. Peter, other leading health-optimizers and I recommend the Oura ring. Use the code “sergef” to get $100 off their new version; I do not earn a referral fee from this (they kindly offered, I declined). The reason we prefer this particular device is that it gives far more accurate data than all the wristbands. Skin thickness, skin color, and contact tightness are all more favorable on fingers in terms of blood flow analysis.
Here are the key things we want:
To sleep better:
Here’s the thing: like most suggestions in this article the stuff above has compounding benefits. Each night of bad sleep permanently damages us and we can never fully recover that damage. Part of the damage is to the apparatus of sleep itself, which over time makes us stupid and ages and kills us.
Many of us do not want to make the changes to our social lives, dating etc. for the sake of sleep.
It is a matter of priorities. You want to go to the club, or you want to not have Alzheimers.
Key point: stressed out, negative, emotional people basically have long-term brain damage
Constant stress truly hurts everything: it makes cognition worse[1 2], drains energy, and even cuts adult neurogenesis and neuroplasticity in our brains [1 2]. Makes memory crap . Interferes with hormonal systems . It ages and kills us in many ways[1 2]. Here are another 50+ studies on how chronic stress fucks us up.
In other words, constant stress makes us stupid. Anything we can do to reduce it is a big win. Here are the specific tools I found useful for this:
Escitalopram is extremely safe even in large doses  especially for me because I have genes that are associated with significantly higher positives and lower negatives of this specific drug.
Old antidepressants (e.g. MAOI) are dangerous. There are also studies out there that claim even the latest, best antidepressants are bad for you . My medical team is skeptical of those studies. The biggest reason is “sick cohort bias.” These “researchers” take a bunch of depressed people that are prescribed antidepressants, compare them with people NOT on antidepressants (while claiming to magically compensate for the fact that the latter group are obviously healthier people). Conclude that the AD group has a small difference in some kind of risk, and PR this to gullible media. This is bullshit, not science.
My doctors take SSRIs themselves and make no money from prescribing them to me. So I trust their conclusions.
We can be completely non-religious and do not need to believe in any mystical bullshit that meditation is (sadly) surrounded with. There is a large amount of serious scientific evidence that suggests meditation is valuable for everything from neurogenesis to cognition, mood, attention, and disease risk [here is a collection of ~50 studies on this].
Once we are good at meditation, it provides very concrete applied hacks we can use. Here are some I use every day:
And it feels like in meditation I only just scratched the surface although I meditated (incorrectly) for 5 years. It is already easy for me to control my emotions. My goal this year is to get to a point where negative emotions don’t even appear. This is feasible.
Additionally, I saw material enhancements for stress resistance from things described in other sections. Most of all better sleep, sex, MDMA, removal of news/social media, and hormonal enhancements.
Last important point on stress: our propensity for it is a long-term thing.
Stress and fear increase the size and power of the amygdala (the part of our brain where fear is generated), which in turn makes it easier for us to be stressed and afraid.
If we are constantly fearful, stressed, depressed, negative, skeptical of others — we are “sick” in the medical sense that our brain structure is doing something detrimental to us due to long-term damage. And it is detrimental — lots of scientific evidence for that (refer to all the studies listed above). We can get better, but it takes time and effort.
Actively work on keeping stress levels low. It doesn’t just make us happier and healthier. It makes us significantly smarter.
Apology to the female half of the audience. This section is male-oriented. That is what I know and optimize for.
Key points: Sex = good for you. Humans = not monogamous. When not in a relationship, I just hire fashion models to have sex with in order to save time on dating and focus on other priorities. Great sex = biochemistry.
I think of sex as something similar to exercise, meditation, or food. Another physiological need to be addressed in a time-efficient way; another tool to enhance health (talking about safe sex obviously) and intelligence. There are many reasons why sex is useful for intelligence:
Getting great sex takes too much time and energy:
My solution at this point in life is simple:
Basically: I get to have sex with women I find attractive, when I feel like it. All the psychological and physiological value of sex, with very little time or emotional cost. And no risks because everyone’s happy.
Society tells us that “the right kind” of sex needs X months/dates of knowing each other to be good. And of course it must “not be based on looks or money” (a theory easily disproved by the existence of makeup and Lamborghinis).
In reality awesome sex just needs the right biochemical buttons pressed. That is all.
A lot of you do the stuff I do quietly. Or fantasize about doing it. Just do it openly. You will look confident and empowered. The world does not get to tell you not to do what you want.
BTW, I do think that the right long-term relationships can be amazing and valuable. I want these to be honest and based on a genuine connection. Not on “I am really horny, I’m going to go waste my time to pick up women I actually have zero long-term interest in.”
Finally, if you think it is “misogyny” to pursue your own desires and encourage everyone, regardless of gender, to do the same, you may want to look up the definition of “misogyny”.
Key point: your hormones are probably screwed up. Fix them, it improves mood, energy and health. And generally makes life awesome.
For reasons related to modern life (stress, poor sleep, pollution etc.) most of us will have suboptimal hormones.
This is hard to fix without expensive professional help and testing. But it is really worth exploring. The general idea is:
I had “below average but clinically normal” levels of thyroid hormones and of testosterone. Boosted both via targeted interventions described in my previous post.
This improved mood and boosted energy in quite a material way. Plus testosterone is quite important for Social Intelligence (explained in a later section). It increases confident, aggressive, dominant behavior as well as willingness to take risks. The associated body language and behaviors make it easier to get people to listen to what you say and do what you want.
Key point: eating once a day makes you smarter and healthier.
I eat only one time a day — late afternoon / early evening, and fast for 24 hours. I do this nearly every day. This:
Here are ~70 supporting studies. There is very wide scientific consensus that IF is great for you.
Basically it makes us smarter, saves valuable time and makes us healthier. Think of how big of an advantage it is to have an additional hour of sharp focus a day for 30 years. And we will live longer!
It is also natural. All that stupid shit about eating breakfast and eating 5 times a day ignores the very obvious question: do you actually think you evolved to have an around-the-clock buffet? do you think the hunter-gatherers ate 5 times a day?
This is really a no-brainer. A bit hard at first, but the body and mind adapt quickly.
Key point: your body and mind work much better if you do not eat sugar, processed foods and grains. Because guess fucking what? Evolution designed you to mostly eat fat!
A simplified explanation of ketosis is that we are switching our bodies into burning fat rather than glucose. This requires eating nearly all our calories from fat, and can be measured quite precisely via finger blood sticks.
The fundamental argument why ketosis is good is as follows:
There is a great deal of evidence that suggests ketosis is advantageous. Here’s another 70+ studies if you want to read about it.
The problem is that ketosis is very hard in the modern world. Much harder than intermittent fasting. The reason is that sugars and carbohydrates are everywhere + that they are very addictive. And in order to be in ketosis, we really have to eat close to zero sugars and our carbs have to be limited to a small amount of fruit + what we will get from vegetables.
It looks like there is interesting technology on the horizon — HVMN, a biohacking company funded by Marc Andreessen, has developed the first commercial-grade ketone ester that really does raise ketones rapidly and significantly (I got 0.5=>3.4 in 15 minutes for those in the know), and reduces blood glucose. The older ketone salt products don’t get nearly as good of a result.
When I took their ketone ester (note: I am not earning any referral fees or the like from them although I am friends with the founder), I felt a rapid and lasting inflow of energy/focus. Another particularly acute effect was needing to breathe less — in normal activity, in the sauna, and in an interval run.
Right now this is expensive (~$3000/month to stay in keto all day) and unpleasant (the stuff tastes… really bad although Geoff, the CEO, is saying this will be fixed shortly). Hopefully both will get better. I really like the effects I perceived so far, as well as the science behind ketone health benefits. Will probably take this every day on top of my on-and-off keto diet.
Not much to add to what I wrote in my previous article — do interval training (not bullshit long cardio or marathons), do heavy hip hinge exercises, sit less. This likely contributes to intelligence via hormonal systems, sleep, stress control etc.; and even if it did not you would want to do it for the health benefits.
Key point: technology, notifications and news media are vampires that suck our time and energy.
Many things require deep, focused work. Switching contexts is expensive. If we are distracted from writing code by a 5-minute phone call we do not lose 5 minutes, we might lose hours of excellent work.
There is more. Every time a notification, a phone call, a YouTube video distract us, our neural networks get rewired. We become more distractible. Less able to focus. More addicted to these things.
We become more stupid.
Modern tech and media are deliberately designed to make us addicted. Couple quotes from top Facebook executives about this:
This is not limited to social applications. The news media, from Buzzfeed to the New York Times, are overhyping threats, optimizing clickbait-y headlines, and generally doing everything they can to make us care about things that are actually totally fucking irrelevant to our lives.
That’s right — the news media that claims to keep us informed and complains about Facebook designing addictive technologies actually thrives on hijacking our minds, sucks our time and energy. And directly makes us more stressed, negative, stupid people.
Do you really want to spend your days and limited attention resources worrying about what Kim Jong-Un will do? Why. The fuck. Do you. Care?
(If you think worrying about Kim Jong-Un in fact does provide value, I challenge you to post in the comments a list of specific decisions that reading the political news helped you make in 2017, and what concrete, valuable outcomes resulted from these decisions).
Here are some ideas on how we can approach this challenge:
Some of you might feel this is extreme and not worth the time investment. Track how many hours you waste away on procrastination, social media, news articles etc. in a typical month. For me that number used to be several hours a day and is now approaching zero. Our investment in controlling our infospace pays for itself many times over. And it is easy once habituated.
This section is also the reason I choose not to have children. None of us will disagree that children are extremely distracting, disrupt sleep for years; are generally a massive cost of time, focus and energy; and have material risks of not working out, for reasons outside our control.
I just don’t see the ROI in children given my goals. They won’t ever return my time, focus or energy back. There is no point in passing on our genes once we can live forever ourselves (and there are good reasons to think some of us will do so). We can have other meaningful long-term projects. And if we ever feel lonely we can take MDMA with friends or boost our hormones and neurotransmitters. True happiness is in our biochemistry state. We can have it without intermediate steps.
Bad news for the high-IQ introverts amongst us. Donald Trump is smarter than we are.
He repeatedly survived through bankruptcies that would have destroyed most of us if we were in his place. Played the media like a fiddle. Became president of the US. And he isn’t a lucky one-hit wonder. He has been achieving for decades things that the majority of us would very much like to achieve.
This is not an endorsement of him. I do not like what he does. But his “ability to perform complex tasks” (i.e. intelligence) is high. And it is based in SI. Body language. An understanding of human emotional buttons. That the human brain equates attention and credibility. Even if you really dislike him it makes sense to learn some of his techniques.
(I entered into a $20k bet on Trump winning the presidency 15 months before the election. For those of us with high social intelligence, it was always obvious Trump would win).
We should recognize that Social Intelligence is far, far, far more powerful than IQ. The reason Social Intelligence is so powerful is that it scales. An understanding of human emotional buttons enables us to get others to like and support us with their skills — no matter who they are.
A high IQ and ability to debate with formal logic is useful too of course. Planes don’t fly on emotions. But if we, after a lifetime of observing ourselves and other humans, think we can use logic/facts/IQ to persuade/lead/connect with others, we are truly fucking stupid.
There is a lot of evidence that Social Intelligence and social status have many second-order effects on intelligence: neurogenesis, happiness, intelligence, brain volume, desire to compete, lower stress etc. Here is a whole book full of supporting evidence by Robert Sapolsky, a leading neurologist at Stanford. And lest we think this is just because of human social inequality, a great deal of the research is replicated even for monkey social intelligence and social status (read the book).
So — how do we boost it?
The prerequisite is to truly internalize that humans are “irrational.” But the irrationality is highly predictable. We have to understand and believe this, at our deepest core.
Favorite example of “irrationality” (I am well aware of that priming studies are controversial):
When we hear French music in a wine store our preferences are materially shifted to French wines. Even if we don’t ever become aware of the music.
The reason things work this way is actually highly logical.
Somewhere in our mind there are neural nets for France, French Music, French Wine, French Flag image. They are linked to each other. That is how we know these are related in some way. Triggering the French Music net triggers all linked nets, including the nets for France and French Wine. So the incoming signal to the French Wine net is a bit stronger than into the Italian Wine net at this moment in time. That changes our decision probabilities. Without us ever noticing.
All of us are programmable, hackable machines.
So — how can biohacking help our SI?
Recently I gave a talk about biohacking to an audience of ~200 successful leaders in San Francisco. When I asked how many of them took the drug MDMA (Schedule 1 illegal in the US), >50% of hands went up.
Think about that for a second.
I am not telling you to take it. But in my subjective experience, MDMA boosted Social Intelligence more than anything else. Its effects were permanent and extremely beneficial.
The scientific research says that risks of MDMA (Ecstasy) appear to be far lower than those of alcohol and tobacco [here are several studies; this is obvious to anyone who ever looked at the science]. The FDA is about to approve it for treatment of PTSD and says it is a “breakthrough” .
The setting I take it in is long, chill house parties with friends/family, great music and ambience, known supply with precise measurement.
For those of us who haven’t tried it: the effects are:
The interesting thing is that for me all the effects above stayed permanently, albeit they are not as strong while actually on MDMA.
The biggest benefit is that I became extremely comfortable with being open about who I am and what I feel. In this article I publicly admit to taking illegal drugs and paying for sex. It is trivially easy for me to say what my biggest insecurity used to be (height — 5'8 and spent years agonizing over it) or the most embarrassing lie in my life (lied about getting into Stanford GSB before I actually did; it got to the Dean of Admissions; I’m still not sure how I persuaded him to let me in despite this). All my friends and family read these articles BTW.
It is extremely liberating to not care at all about what other people think of us. And just be who we are.
And here’s the thing: we all LOVE those of us who are so open and honest. It makes us interesting. Memorable. Trustworthy. Relatable. Confident. It makes it easy to get into deep conversations, which builds relationships. It is soooooo much easier to get what we want in life when we have no fears and just directly ask for it. And so few of us use this extremely powerful hack.
Alcohol (88,000 deaths/yr in the US), tobacco (480,000 deaths) and opioid painkillers (15,000 deaths) are legal, but MDMA (50 deaths) is not. Clearly many of us understand this and do not respect this law (>50% in my San Francisco sample openly said they used MDMA, while just about nobody smoked tobacco).
Unscientific and irrational drug laws undermine the moral authority of law as a whole.
A recent study at Oxford reviewed all English studies on Modafinil over 25 years, and concluded that Modafinil significantly enhances the attention, executive function and learning (i.e. intelligence, in its most clear form imaginable) of healthy non-sleep-deprived humans when performing complex tasks, and with no side effects or mood changes at all. .
I take 100–200mg every day in the morning (as early as possible) and plan to always do so. Anecdotally some people find their sleep is disrupted.
The country that first decides to give free Modafinil to all its citizens will reap massive competitive benefits in the global economy.
I used to take Adderall XR (daily for many years). Adderall is very effective and quite safe (here’s a huge review of the science, and it clearly suggests Adderall can give you superhuman concentration with not much real risk).
I switched to Modafinil because I found that Adderall made me more anxious + made it too easy to focus on unimportant things.
I still take it occasionally when I need to do something boring but important. For example in my last company I read/edited key legal documents on Adderall. And the mechanisms I built in gave negotiating advantages years later. When reviewing 200 pages of dense legalese, a $1000/hr investor lawyer gets obliterated by a founder on Adderall.
But overall I do not recommend it. Too powerful.
Key point: many things in this article help you grow new neurons. that helps you learn. if you do not constantly learn new and challenging things, your intelligence degrades. oh, and LSD.
Learning itself is a skill that needs to be developed. For a general overview of the neurobiology of learning I highly recommend completing the Learning How To Learn class on Coursera. It is easy and very valuable for all of us — those in high school, and those who are CEOs alike.
Learning is dependent on neuroplasticity and neurogenesis — i.e. the ability of our brain to grow new neurons and rewire synaptic connections between existing neurons. These are driven by something called BDNF, which is highly modifiable.
We already mentioned that a number of things enhance these: lithium, SSRIs, sleep, meditation, stress reduction, sex, fasting. Here are some more:
The last bit about LSD deserves a separate mention. I recently began microdosing LSD. Interesting experience. No hallucinations, but the mind wanders, focuses intensely on various sensory inputs, and links ideas in novel and unpredictable ways. I find it impossible to do focused work. But it seems to be an incredible way to deeply enjoy things like music, art or even taking a bath. It also seems to be a very powerful way to shift the mind into a diffuse mode of thought after a period of intense focus, which is essential for learning (watch the class referenced above for details). LSD even in large doses is extremely safe. I will keep using them from time to time when I want a day off. NOTE: do not mix LSD and lithium.
If you are the kind of person who looks down on those who take illegal drugs, you should know that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Feynman, Thomas Edison and many other top businesspeople, scientists and leaders used illegal drugs and often spoke of them as crucial to their success.
And of course to improve our learning skills we need to keep learning. We can teach ourselves to code or complete classes on neuroscience or genetics or quantum physics or French or playing the piano, rather than spend our precious time and neurons on the failings of politicians, the habits of celebrities, or the details of terrorist attacks. Even if we don’t ever use quantum physics, learning it will make us smarter and more capable of learning any other concepts, as well as link them to quantum physics in novel ways.
This article is already long enough. I take lots of supplements — 50+ pills a day (that’s an actual picture above). They are basically super-safe things (e.g. concentrated garlic) that can have plausible benefits. More details in the health article.
Key point: pollution and especially smoking damages your brain.
It is well known that many pollutants damage intellect directly (lead, mercury); have broadly negative neurological effects (volatile organic compounds such as styrene); and disrupt hormone signaling (xenoestrogens are linked to long-term testosterone decline observed around the world).
I try to avoid all of these as much as possible. On a practical level this means:
I know I used the word “stupid” many times in this article but it all pales in comparison with the stupidity of smoking.
Many of these interventions are likely to carry significant placebo effects. Placebo is awesome. If we have genuine belief in the efficacy of an intervention, that belief itself generates part of the desired effect. This is one of the most proven observations in medical science.
Optimism is healthy and good for us in and of itself.
I made this point many times. But this stuff compounds. Think about how smart you will become if you have decades of focused learning, awesome sleep, great health, practicing social skills, building wealth and power. An upwards spiral that others will never catch up with. And because gains in society are exponentially concentrated at the very top, gains from maximizing your intelligence are large.
And deep work habits also train us to have “deep downtime.” To have deeply engaging conversations with our friends and family, where we show our vulnerabilities and get to the core of who we are. Rather than staring at our phones and distractedly discussing the weather (as most of us do).
This whole approach isn’t just healthy and useful to create wealth and influence. It is also a fucking awesome way to live.
It is not the ability to easily multiply large numbers, but the ability to consistently win, that makes AlphaGo superintelligent in the (very narrow) domain of playing Go.
Likewise we are intelligent if we accomplish complex goals. Stupid if we do not. That intelligence is based on our biochemistry.
This article is about executing extremely well. You should also pick the right goal and tie it together on different timeframes. I have very general objectives by the decade for the next 40 years => fairly concrete OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) for 2018 => Quarterly OKRs => they inform my weekly and daily priorities. In other words I can link my action item today “find coach that helps me train my voice to be slower” to annual OKR of “enhance persuasion skills” to “become immortal post-human god sometime after 2060.”
This article has many suggestions that can make those of us who adopt them more intelligent, happier and more influential. And I genuinely enjoy helping others.
But there is a deeper purpose.
I want to live in a post-human future that is aligned with values I align with: knowledge, science, technology, freedom, progress, power, abundance, pure meritocracy, optimism. And where tribalism, religion, tradition, nation-states, irrational emotions, conservatism and socialism have much less power over the world.
I know that only those of you who hold a very similar technocratic worldview will internalize and obsessively adapt these hacks. Those of you who believe in different values will say this is unproven. Too radical. Too weird. Too un-human. Too far off in the future to care about. Too complicated.
These tools will help the group that adopts them gain more influence. And thus help further advance a situation where those of us with values similar to mine influence the agenda for mankind. This will create a much better world than what we have today.
So for me the lines along which we will split on this approach is itself a feature of the approach.
This article — crafted with deliberate attention-grabbing concepts like sex, illegal drugs and fear — is designed to help bring about the grand future I believe in.