Biohacking Tip #2: Scientific Method

Scientific MethodAn intervention is something we do with the intent to change.

It’s the ‘hack’ in ‘biohacking’.

When you select an intervention, you usually have some implicit or explicit beliefs about the intended outcomes.

You have a hypothesis: If I do this, I hope to get that.

Such as, if I remember to do oil pulling every morning my dental health will improve.

Or, if I stick to the Autoimmune Protocol, I’ll start to reverse my autoimmune symptoms & maybe get my life back.

In this way, most biohacking follows the scientific method.

It’s entirely possible to select an intervention just for exploratory kicks. To find out what might happen, without any specific hypothesis in mind. That can be fun, but it’s straying into the territory of Developmental Biohacking, which I’ll explore in future posts.

For now, let’s stick with the scientific method.

(Fun fact: the origin of the scientific method is attributed to Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham a millennia ago.)

The Scientific Method

BuddhaStep 1: Question

Let’s say you have a desired state that is different than your present condition.

Your intended outcome for your biohacking experiment will be some variation of that desired state. Usually, it will involve a reduction of undesired elements or an increase in desired ones.

Whatever your intended outcome, write it down. Be realistic without unduly limiting yourself.

Step 2: Research

Next, select a strategy that you think has a reasonable chance of getting you closer to your intended outcome.

To do that, look at published research &/or the anecdotal reports of other people who are experimenting with the same thing.

Decide what sources you trust. One of the best ways to do this is by first digging in to the methodology (is it sound?) & then by triangulating (find at least 3 distinct sources that support the finding).

After this research, you may need to revise your intended outcome.

Step 3: Hypothesis

Once you’ve chosen an intervention, you have a hypothesis (If I do this, I’ll get that). 

Write it down. Include a realistic time frame.

Step 4: Experiment

Test your hypothesis.

Start by documenting your current state in light of your intended outcomeGather data for your baseline measure, using indicators that are relevant to your experiment.

Then engage with the intervention. As designed.

Step 5: Analyze

Observe. Gather data at appropriate intervals & at the end of your experiment.

Gather the same data as at your baseline, but document unanticipated outcomes, too.

Compare your observed outcomes to your baseline. Then compare your observed outcomes to your intended outcomes.

This is where you assess the efficacy of your hack: was it sufficient? Was is implemented correctly? Does it need to be refined? Abandoned? What about unintended outcomes? Are they desirable/undesirable?

Draw conclusions. Conclusions are best guesses. They inform the next iteration.

Step 6: Report

Document your findings. For your own purposes, or publish your findings.

blog is a great forum for that.

Bonus Step 7: Adapt 

This step is depicted by the arrow.

arrowIt’s a magic arrow that can take you back to any stage of the process. Use it to ask a new question; do more research, recraft your hypothesis; relaunch your experiment; do more analysis; or change your direction entirely.

Biohacking: the quick version

At it’s most basic, biohacking involves choosing an intended outcome (‘I will reverse my autoimmune symptoms & get some of my life back’), running an experiment that you think will help you to achieve that outcome (such as the Autoimmune Protocol), and then comparing the observed outcomes with your initial condition & intended outcomes.

observed & intended outcomesYour intended outcomes are your aspirations. The data you gather describes you, in particular domains, over time.

Biohacking is about systematically organizing your life so you can align the two.

15 thoughts on “Biohacking Tip #2: Scientific Method

  1. Petra–I am an experimental psychologist and teach Research Methods in college and have spent time doing educational research. I love your approach to your family’s health (like your husband, I have psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis–possibly related to a longstanding underlying pneumoniae infection which is being treated–and as yet unidentified other AI disorder) and your ability to clearly educate others. I use the scientific method to test hypotheses about pedagogy in the classroom and have been also systematically applying the same approach to my health. It’s really the only way to eliminate confounds, eh? It takes time, I often use the ABA design–or even ABABA to really see how my n of 1 experiments are proceeding. It’s nice to meet a like minded human–I guess I’m a biohacker too. AIP has helped (especially for some particularly significant cognitive issues) but something is still up–flaring now–I think I have to try low FODMAP, but have not yet done so as, well, it’s another layer of restrictions that makes me sad honestly and I have to gear up for that shift psychologically. Thanks for your work!

    • I think we all might be biohackers~. I often use an ABABA to double check, as there are so many variables at play. Matthew does, too, but as he is in autoimmune response, each trial can take a long time, if he flares in the process. I’m sure you understand what that is like. Whereas, as a healthy person, I can ‘clean my laboratory’ & retest relatively quickly. And I totally understand about needing to prepare psychologically for low-FODMAP. I’ll be thinking of you.

  2. Another ripper article, thanks Petra! You’re ability to distill complicated concepts into layman’s terms never ceases to amaze me.

    I follow a similar approach when I bio-hack but I’d like to start documenting more. Thanks for the inspiration!

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