Can You Buy Intelligence? The Race to Overclock the Brain

Ellie Collins
9 min readDec 6, 2018

What if you could bring the best version of yourself to every task that you tackled, by enhancing your cognitive performance? Would you do it? Well, there are numerous start-ups asking those very questions, considering the brain and body as a platform that can, and should be, optimised.

Biohacking is an umbrella term for a variety of different processes that people undertake for personal optimisation, both physically and mentally. Biohacking differentiates itself from the rest of the self-improvement sphere by taking a systems-thinking approach to biology, making tweaks to body inputs that lead to measurable changes in output. This measurability is key, as it creates a feedback loop which in turn, allows us to constantly improve and refine the process. One area in particular that people are constantly seeking to improve is that of the brain. Here, they are attempting to ‘overclock’ it.

What Is Overclocking?

People that build their own computers often ‘overclock’ their CPU’s (the brain of a computer). This has the effect of running the computer at a faster pace, for example, making programs load quicker and games run more smoothly. They do this by giving it, in effect, a little ‘boost’, by raising the voltage to increase the operating speed and then cranking up the cooling to disperse the extra heat. This allows the computer to remain operational, but at a higher output than previously.

Overclocking The Brain

By continuing with our overclocking analogy, it should be noted that a computer forced to run at high speeds and temperatures for an extended period of time will slowly begin to break down. It increases the wear and tear of the system and thus reduces its life expectancy. It is operating outside of its original build specification. Proper management and routine can reduce or temper this effect, but it cannot be eliminated entirely.

Similar to a computer, humans are composed of memory, bandwidth and communication devices, all processing at different speeds. There is a growing field of research and products that re-engineer and overclock human physiology that is promising to make bodies faster, stronger and superior in nearly magical ways.

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Ellie Collins

Lover of writing, fanatic of cats, drinker of wine. Passionate about all things sustainability, health and wellness. You can find me at elliecollins.me.