I have the honor of interviewing Daniel Schmachtenberger, the Director of Research and Development and a co-founder at the Neurohacker Collective. There, Daniel is focused on developing processes and technologies for advancing medicine and human optimization. He is particularly focused on personalized medicine, adequate approaches to complex illness, and deepening our knowledge of how the human regulatory systems function, how they break down, and how they can be supported to function with greater resilience.
I’m so inspired to share this hour-plus podcast with you as resilience is a core principle of the PIVOT process. Daniel is a fascinating expert on this and so much more. So, fasten your seat belts because this hour-long plus podcast is filled with incredibly special and thought-provoking conversation about everything from sleep, to memory, to genetics, to performance and recovery, to the dynamics of longevity and even the definition of life!
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A Biomedical Look at Resilience and More Interview with Daniel Schmachtenberger
The gentleman that I’m going to get to share with you is somebody special. I’d like to say that I know him well but that would be a lie. I don’t know him well. The people in my life that think very highly of him, I know quite well, namely my daughter Chelsea and her boyfriend Matthew. I venture to say that they’re not often wrong about these kinds of things. I got to meet this gentleman at an ATL meeting, Association of Transformational Leaders. He spoke and moved an audience of transformational teachers, people that have been in the space of helping folks find the higher versions of themselves,people on the road to actualizing the best parts of themselves, very open-minded folks, and people that are very committed to performance and what it takes to perform at our best in all arenas, including your business, our personal affairs, relationships, health, etc. We get the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Schmachtenberger. It’s great to have you on the show. With no false humility, let us know a little bit about yourself. Whatever you think it’s salient for us to know about you.
Thanks, Adam. I’m happy to be here and dialoguing with you and sharing with your audience. I’m Director of Research and Development for Neurohacker Collective, which is applied neuroscience biotech company. It’s focused on new kinds of approach to neurotechnology for mind-brain optimization. You’re talking about performance of the physiology side of brain performance and the way that affects cognitive and psychological performance. That’s the primary thing that we’re focused on. The relationship of physiologic optimization, psychological optimization, interpersonal optimization, and optimization of the complex system of civilization biosphere at large, the inner dynamics between all of those are things that we focus on.
This is a fairly new company. Is it okay to call it a startup? Is it officially a startup?
The company started under three years ago and we’ve only moved from our indie phase to the company phase, which means we’re selling product. It is early in the venture and it’s going wonderfully well.
I’ve been using a few of those products for more than a month, and it felt terrific for me. I shared an article with you and it led us to a conversation initially about performance. The article is a Harvard Business Review article that reads, The Making of a Corporate Athlete. It’s fascinating that these researchers were looking at top athletes and to see if there’s any connection between the best athletes in the world and the best executives and business in the world. What they found, this area of commonality, was recovery, and rituals for recovery. For those who’ve read my book Pivot, I’m a big fan of this. Part of the momentum section of the book, I talk about resilience. I talked independently about rituals, but in connection with resilience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks. To be resilient. To be that willow tree in the wind versus the oak that breaks branches. What does it mean to be resilient and mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically what contributes to that ability to recover quickly? I wanted to get your thoughts on that, and if you could share some of your feelings, your research in that area.
There’s a number of things that contribute to what we call resilience, or the capacity for the system to continue to perform and operate well. Rather than a homeostatic state of the system, the homeostatic capacity to operate well even in the presence of stressors. One of the things that is important for resilience is recovery. You are giving the example of athletes who were very successful had faster recovery cycles. That means recovering from heavy workouts faster, but also even just in short breaks between their performance still within the game having quicker cycles of recovery. Part of why this is an important thing is any kind of performance is going to have a certain load to it.
There’s going to be a certain set of physiologic processes, psychologic processes that are going to need non-performative time to be processed. To be more effective the non-performative recovery time is and the faster those cycles are, the more one will be able to continue to operate at peak rather than at a diminished rate because some of the repair hasn’t happened yet. This is why sleep is such a big deal because while we are regenerating, while we’re awake and restful a little bit, the deepest regeneration physiologically and psychologically happens during sleep. REM sleep is a major part of how memory consolidation, from the day it happens and psychologic processes, we get to process the experiences of the day into long-term memory. Delta sleep is how the deeper aspects of long-term memory, memory consolidation happen and most of physiologic repair.
The antioxidant pathways, the inflammatory pathways, the immune pathways are all happening in the sympathetic nervous system is at its minimum. Parasympathetic is high, corresponding with melatonin high, cortisol low. That’s when all repair gets to primarily happen. When people start decreasing the amounts of sleep from what their body needs, even a little bit, even an hour per night, the decreased repair over not that long starts to lead to profoundly decreased performance. We see this principle everywhere. If you are doing agriculture and you grow crops, the crops are pulling nutrients out of the soil. If you take all of that crop out of the soil and you’re not tilling anything back into the soil, so you’re not regenerating the soil, you end up taking fertile agricultural zones and turning them into deserts in not that many cycles.
It’s the lesson of the Dust Bowl era that lead to world crop rotation, right?
It was the Dust Bowl, but it was the reason that most of the ancient civilizations collapsed. One of the big parts of why they collapsed was over agriculture in their soil leading to early desertification, leading to resource shortage, and then resource wars. Humanity’s been doing that not that long after agriculture. The areas that figured it out did appropriate crop rotations and tilling the nutrients back into the soil and closed loop process. In other words, regeneration were able to continue. For anything to be sustainable, it has to be regenerative because there is load of performance. This is true at the level of economic, at the level of agriculture, at the level of ecosystems, at the level fisheries, and at the level of psychology and physiology.
When you talk about load, what do you mean by load?
When you’re taking nutrients out of the soil, converting them into plants, and taking the plants out of that soil, there is a load to the soil. There is a burden of how much toxicity can get into the soil of whatever byproducts of the plants, and how much nutrient can get taken out of the soil. Basically, t there’s a cost. We have to regenerate proportionately to be able to stay even, regenerate more to get ahead. This would be the same with our physiology. If someone’s lifting weights, they’re inducing micro tears in their muscle, which induce regeneration of the muscle where it regenerates with more actual tissue fibers and more densely bundled tissue fibers, which is why strength increases. If you don’t have adequate nutrition and adequate time, adequate circulation, support for the regeneration, then those micro tears can turn into bigger tears and injury rather than into regeneration.
What do you believe it is that contributes to creating a faster cycle of regeneration? You’re saying you can impact the cycle to regenerate more quickly or it’s degenerate more quickly.
There’s a number of things. The first is to degenerate less quickly.
Degeneration is the law. There’s nothing we can do about the fact that we are degenerating no matter what. It’s a universal law.
There’s a lot we can do about it. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is what you’re referring to is the idea that entropy is going to increase in an enclosed system. Humans are not closed systems. It’s a very important topic. We’re taking new energy all the time, and we’re releasing old structures. One of the definitions of life, core definitions of what life is in biology is an entropy externalizing system, or an entropy pump. The Second Law says things are going to get more and more disorderly, but biology is a process of making orderly things. A plant has these very complex molecules that are organized from very simple molecules. How does it do that? There’s always been this kind of question about how life seems to be anti-entropic. It’s not violating the Second Law but it’s working with it in a very interesting way, where it’s taking energy and externalizing entropy, and being able to have self-organization as a result.
Since we’re not closed systems, the idea that we’re subject to fixed entropy, is not really true. We are subjected to entropy all the time, but you can decrease the entropic load. We look at what is it that ages us? Oxidative stress ages us. Toxicity of various kinds ages less. These are things that can damage cells and then lead to damaged cells or senescent, light cells, older cell. All here means has some damage so it doesn’t function in the same way. It produces metabolic byproducts that end up being harmful. It doesn’t do all the healthy process as well. Can we decrease oxidative stress? Yes. Can we increase how well our body recovers from oxidative stress through better antioxidant support pathways? Yes. Can we decrease toxic burden? Yeah. Can we increase our detox system pathways? Totally. Can we decrease psychological stress and increase our psychologic process? Absolutely. Can we make sure that where there are deficiencies of nutrients or other forms of stimulus that are necessary for system optimization that we address, so we’re not being deficiency? Yes. There is some entropy happening but we can navigate it profoundly better.
Is there an outer edge to how long the human being can live, if what you’re saying is that we can control that entropic process?
This is one of the most active questions in the biomedical sciences world. It is not just medicine focused on disease model, but the topic of longevity and radical life extension itself. It’s a new approach to biology and to the degree that we address the dynamics of longevity, we end up addressing the dynamics of preventing the things that kill us. Medicine can get obsolete. Much of medicine is obsolete in the process of optimizing ongoing system efficiency and on function, which can lead to life extension. Give or take, genetic maximum for most people is thought of in the 110, 120 range, which is the oldest we’ve seen people make that we have documented records of. Most people don’t live that long. Most people are dying earlier than genetic maximum because of specific issues. They’re dying of cancer, heart disease, diabetes. The first step in life extension is preventing those causes of death. Everybody starts to get the genetic maximum. It’s very realistic that that will become scientifically plausible, that premature death from disease will become a part of history. There are a number of companies doing pioneering great work on and we’re working to add to research in that space.
Moving us beyond genetic maximum, beyond that 120 is a different topic. There’s a deep question on, “Is it simply accumulated stressors that are leading to when we die and we could just stop having those stressors?”Or, “Is death genetically programmed as a way to keep natural selection happening?”We don’t have the older species competing with the newer ones for the same amount of finite resource from the newer ones have better genetics because they’re found in more breeding cycles. There’s good evidence that there are aspects of death that are genetically programmed. This is one of the topics of debate between different researchers in the field of radical life extension. If that’s the case, there’s work that’s been done on how would we change genetically programmed death. Given that we’re in the post crisper world where we’re working on being able to identify gene sequences and change them. The idea that we will extend longevity up to the kind of 120 mark regularly and maybe beyond that is very realistic.
Buckminster Fuller was on target with a lot of his predictions, and that was one of them. We’re amazed to be seeing the topic of regeneration. It would seem that death will be a part of the regenerative cycle. How would we remove death from that cycle anyway? Maybe there’s no answering the question.
The cells that make up your body are dying, and new ones are being born in the regeneration of your whole system is happening that way. How life extension technologies are working is to help the old cells die faster, so that they aren’t underperforming, causing metabolic problems, and new cells come in faster. The body has a natural process for killing old cells because if the old cells, by old what we mean is they are somewhat damaged. Their metabolic processes are somewhat damaged. Rather than produce ATP cleanly and have clean genetic transcription, they end up having damaging genetic transcription like cancer probability, and over producing histamine. Autophage is the process by which the body identifies and detail older cells.
There are things that we can do to increase autophagy so that we aren’t dealing with the problems of senescent cells. Fasting triggers as soon as the body’s in a significant caloric deficit for a while. It starts cutting life support to certain systems and cuts into old senescent immune cells first, which are helpful things. Interesting research on 72-hour mark water fasting, you start getting purge of senescent immune cells, which cause major inflammatory and auto immune issues. There are also drugs and herbs that are being worked on to do that. Our bodies are producing new stem cells all the time. Those new stem cells are differentiating into tissues. If we could increase the rate at which we produce stem cells, which means new stuff being born, we could increase the rate at which those differentiate into tissues and increase the rate at which the old cells are recycled, and protect healthy cells from damage.
You’re at the level of the human body, but it’s true at the level of humanity and civilizations. There’s definitely this place where one of the interesting philosophic questions, ethical questions in life extension is, “Would it be a net good thing for civilization?” Because if older people’s rate of learning decreases and younger people have higher rate of learning, you keep older people alive longer, and then you can have less younger people, you have less birthrate to have a steady state population. You have more people that are obsolete for a longer period of time, and that are less adapted to the new world that’s changing faster.
The other perspective would say, “We only start to meaningfully mature around the time we die.”We don’t understand how to navigate universe or even ourselves very well for most of our early life. If we could be regenerating our physiology well enough that those older years were vital and that our learning was optimized, that people who could live to 150 would have a much longer developmental childhood, and then a much longer period of productivity with a much more comprehensive human development set. There’s no question that we breed older than we used to. We went from breeding throughout much of history as soon as breeding was possible, as soon as we went past puberty, to having economics, education, and social structure start changing that. Where 30, and moving towards 40 are getting much more common while we’re being exposed to more information earlier.
Women are having babies later in life. We see friends that had babies right up to become 50, which is fairly remarkable.
It’s one of the deep ethical topics in life extension. If we could extend longevity without extending menopause, it would suck. It already sucks. Women are going to have the decision to be parents or not. It has to end at 40-year, maybe somewhere in their 40s. Men could make that decision much later. There is a biologic inequality in choice making capacity where he can do other than parenting things for much longer predatorily. She hasn’t been able to do that. Extending not longevity, but extending reproductive longevity is one of the very interesting topics.
I’m a big fan of recipes and formulas, I know you take formulas, too. With just a few ingredients, what would your formula for resilience be? You’ve already spoken about one, which is sleep. What are some of the other things that you think are keys? When I counsel people on their ability to pivot, make changes in their life, sometimes I mentor people in business as well. You got to be able to recover quickly. There’s constantly setbacks, the rate of disruption, the rate of change is exponentially greater all the time. You have to be more resilient. What would that recipe look like for you?
Even though I didn’t get to read the article yet just deeply as you shared it with me, they spoke about physical, emotional, mental, spiritual resilience, and that there were relationships between each of those. You’ve got a Maslow’s hierarchy of those resilience types. It’s a meaningful topic. Physical resilience is necessary but not sufficient. If someone is eating well, sleeping well, exercising well, and doing good preventative and integrative medicine for optimum physiology, that’s going to make a huge difference because physiology affects emotion and cognition. The mental and emotional are going to be very affected. Everyone who has felt their physiology out of balance, whether their hormones were out of balance or they feel their neurochemistry is out of balance, or they had infection going on, knows that their emotions and their cognition were in intangibly effective. There are certain emotional states that are non-accessible and other ones that were unavoidable.
You almost think of the physiology as being tunable, like a musical instrument where if it’s out of tune, all the music is messed up. Before we talk about upgrading the instrument, having it in tune makes a huge difference. It’s not sufficient. That’s some hardware layers and we start looking at the software layer of how we make meaning, what we focus on, where our attention goes, what are frameworks for understanding expressive thinking are. Physical resilience suggests the recipes, but address that even though the basic things, everybody knows. Basic things are true and basic. The first one is sleep. I would put sleep in a category separate from nutrition, exercise, and everything else in terms of its overall importance. I’m not underweighting the importance of the other ones. I’m weighting as heavily as it should be weighted the role of sleep.
Given that almost all physiologic repair and regeneration happens during sleep, the whole purpose of nutrients is to regenerate new tissues. When is it going to happen? That’s going to be major part of when it happens, the exercise, the regenerations can occur as large as can be in a fair amount of time. If people are sleeping not enough or not sleeping well, I would say it should be their first priority to address that. What we’re going to do here to talk about how. We’d be happy to do that some time, but I would put it as a tier-one priority. No one likes to hear that because there’s so much that we want to do. That’s the most uninteresting thing, to use our hours, but having all the rest of our hours in tune makes a much bigger difference than having more shitty hours.
I asked Daniel, “How many hours do you sleep?” He said, “Eight’s the right number for me. Anybody that’s telling me differently is full of it on some level.” I don’t think people can hear it enough, even though it’s basic. People need a reminder. I’m glad you’re providing that reminder.
Some people focus on early to sleep, early to rise dynamics. That is a good thing to explore, but I don’t stress on that too much. You should find out when you feel you perform the best because there is a meaningful reason to think that most humans are diurnal animals. They are daytime time animals where our circadian rhythm is in relationship to light and sun. The quality of sleep that happens in dark is better than not dark and that’s a general truth. It also does appear that there are some recognitions that are genetically adapted for sleeping, waking up earlier, and waking up later that will probably have to do with rotations. Whatever you find works best for you, go ahead and lie down. Do make sure that you’re sleeping enough.
Sleeping enough means you can wake up without an alarm energized and if you wake sustainably. Anyone, when they’re on the adrenaline run of an exciting, busy time, I do that for a short period. If you can wake up with good energy, high energy throughout the day, that’s enough sleep. If it’s less than that, you might wish that you needed less sleep than that. There are other things you can do with your health that can decrease sleep need because you have less to repair. If someone has health issues that lead to increased rate of oxidative damage or increased rate of inflammation, then they’ll need more sleep than they would normally genetically need because they’re getting damaged faster. If someone’s doing very heavy athletics, they’re going to need more sleep. Body builders need more sleep because it’s got more amount of repairing to do.
Stress is the main thing about that article. Almost everybody I know is under greater stress than ever before. It’s entrepreneurs, people in business, whether you’re working in somebody else’s business. There’s more plates spinning with family and work. It feels like there’s more stress, which would seemingly require a better system to repair, recover, and regenerate mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Let’s say you’ve got stress on each of those dimensions. Physiologic stress can come from toxins in the environment, from physical stress, from injury, from exercise, from poor posture, from too much computer hours, from not enough exercising, circulation issues, from food that’s not right for you. All of those are sources of extra physiologic stress and it’s a given. Decreasing physiologic stressors while increasing physiologic regeneration is key. You want to eat food that’s less inflammatory, less artificial anything, less sugar, more micronutrients. People do better with less calories than they’re used to eating. Unless people are severely under eating. Caloric restriction is the main thing we know about life exception. Intermittent fasting is one way of achieving it. Diets that had about 30% less calorie than was normally considered adequate, so calorie means macronutrient, sugar fat, no carbs, fats, and proteins live longer for a number reasons. Increased AMPK levels.
We want lots of micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes. If people can have a diet that is higher micronutrients and lower in total calorie, they will do better. If you think about if people lived in a hunter gatherer environment where they were eating a lot of vegetation, vegetation is going to be very high in micronutrient, raw, organic, and relative to the total amount of calorie in it. Eating in a way that is closer to the living ecosystem and less processed is going to be a general rule of thumb before you get into specific dietary ideas. You will have people who do better on different diets. Each time we go from being into high fiber, high fat, or ketosis, we’re learning more in physiology. It’s a very complex system. Eating in ways that are closer to our evolutionary environment is a good starting place. Specifically avoiding stressors from food, that would be inflammatory food, foods that are hard to digest, processed, toxic, sugar.
Talking about food and stress in the same sentence is unusual for people to hear. My dad always said, “Food is medicine.” To hear that food causes stress, that you can eat food that causes stress is something that’s worth underscoring.
When we think about an airplane and we talk about the stresses on an airplane, the tensional forces, the shearing forces, we’re talking about stress in terms of mechanical physics, mechanical stressors. Stress doesn’t mean an emotional or a mental thing. Stress means any force on a system that if it gets high will produce an alteration of that system. The alteration is what we call strain in physics. Stress is the force that will lead to strain, if the stress gets higher than the dynamic capacity of the system to endure. That’s a lighter way to think about what stress means. We have destructive and constructive type of stress. When we work out, we’re stressing a muscle. If we stress it where it is within a range that we can recover and we do the adequate things to support recovery, then what’s happening is the systems says, “I’m not adapted to be able to deal with this stimulus. I need to change to be able to adapt to it.”
It develops bigger muscles to deal with this the stimulus called heavy weight. This is why I like cryotherapy, cold therapy is very interesting. If you think about our evolutionary environment, before air conditioners and heaters, we were regulating our own body temperature. Some through clothes, but our own metabolism changed to deal with external temperature much more dynamically than it does now. As warm-blooded creatures, how do we get warm? Catabolism is the force where we break molecules and release energy and heat from it. If it’s cold, we need to generate more heat. That means we need to increase those metabolic processes. That means we need to increase the thyroid hormones, the sex hormones that are involved in doing that and those processes. If it’s too hot, we need to cool down, we need to change other metabolic and cooling processes. It’s one of those things where if you don’t trust the system enough, it will lose the capacity because there’s no evolutionary purpose for it to keep the capacity. This is what we call adaptive or healthy stress, saying, “This is the kind of stimulus that we’re being exposed to, so we need the capacity to respond to it.”
If I put myself in a cold bath or a cold chamber where I can produce enough heat, if I put myself in an amount of cold that I don’t feel any stress from, the system or its current capacity can already handle it. It doesn’t need to up-regulate capacity. It has to be at the edge of my current capacity, so the system says, “We need to up-regulate capacity to deal with this.”It has to not be so far beyond the edge that it causes damage, like frostbite or hypothermia. More lifting, in a way where you damage a tendon rather than micro tears in the muscle. Healthy stress is where you expose yourself to a stimulus that is beyond your current capacity to manage easily, that leads to the system up-regulating its capacity in a way that you can up-regulate in relationship to. Damaging stress is where you can’t up-regulate in relationship to it. You don’t do what’s necessary or it’s too far out, and then the system down-regulates from going into strain. It needs more repair than it can get, so it’s damaged.
Is it irreparable in that instance?
Depends. Does a torn tendon irreparable? No, up to a certain point, yes beyond that point.
The side of me that that works in a personal development and business development arena, I’m constantly wanting to encourage people, inspire them to keep them on the growth edge. That’s a very interesting line of where someone’s growth edge is versus where there’s past the point of repair ability work. If not that but some damage that gets caused as result of it. When talking about resilience in pivot, it’s a three part process. The third part is rituals for recovery. Do you have rituals for recovery? Things that you think you’re doing continuously on a regular basis as you ensure that you recover.
We only mentioned a few types of the physiologic dimension. Physiologically, rituals. There’s things that are what I call foundations. A healthy diet, healthy sleep, good hygiene and movement would all just be foundational. Those are physiologic foundations. Other things that I would say doing regularly enough that they’re ritualized on top of that are things like crowd therapy, hot-cold therapy, and particularly cold therapy, as a method for increasing system resilience. Other kinds of therapies like PEMF, post electromagnetic field therapy, which has a number of generously healing physiologic dynamics, increases the safe potential of blood. Active physiologic restoration. Beyond restoration, it’s happening from the rest while sleeping. Conscious restoration while awake, which we call meditation, which is both psychological and physiologic. I do a lot of physiologic therapies that increase the resilience of the system. That’s a lot of nutrients and bio modulators, supplements, medicines, as well as not things that are orally but IV therapies.
When you realize that you can take more responsibility for how your physiology or processes, start to learn and do. As far as other rituals, psychologically stress. Meditation is valuable for being able to focus the mind, being able to learn how to witness it and have space for neuroplasticity dynamics, for the increased body awareness appropriate reception, for the increased parasympathetic process. There are a lot of stresses that are just made up. There’s a lot of psychological process where it’s not what’s happening that’s stressing us out, it’s the meaning of being given to what’s happening. We can change the way that we give meaning. Going through processes of looking at where my psychologically stress about some moral dynamic or some relationship and asking, “Can I change the meaning to things that either make it more comfortable with it or increase my sense of empowerment responsibility within it?” Rituals to continuously inventory those made up stresses and then change them are key.
The first one is reframing. Taking a look at the situation and the frame that you put it in will determine whether you’re stressed by it or not. If you’ve made a poor decision, and you believe that you made a poor decision because you’re an idiot, or you always make poor decisions, that’s one frame that will keep you stressed. The second piece is have you learned something from the experience that you can apply? That’s part of the natural regenerative process is that we learn from biofeedback or any feedback. That’s how we’ve adapted, that how we chooses to go. We continue to assimilate information, make adjustments from that feedback, and then adapting.
I love that you enumerated both of those as methods of framings, which is cognitive behavioral therapy, meaning making reframing. Also, focusing on the lesson rather than the difficulty, and the lesson moving forward as something that increases your adaptive capacity. When you look at life through the lens of, “What are all the things that happened today?” They’re all the things that felt wonderful and you are grateful for those. You’re focusing on giving attention to the things that are wonderful. There were things that were difficult that you say, “Is there anything that I could learn that would allow me to deal with situations like that better in the future, so that rather than being difficult and I try and let it go, I increased my system resilience in response to them.” Then you get the insights and refocus on the insight, rather than the difficulty. The day is filled with things that felt great and things that made you more capable. Those are the things that you focus on.
Have you read The Presence Process, Michael Brown’s book? He doesn’t talk about healing, especially when we’re talking about emotional trauma, imprints from when we’re young, and how it is that that imprint from when we’re very young determines how we frame the world. We’re meaning making machines. Where does that all start? We trace it back to this imprint that occurs when we’re young. There is a lot of people that are engaged in helping people heal. In the healing industry, healing arts of any kind. I’m not against any form of healing, but he’s talking about, “Instead of using the word ‘healing’, it’s about integrating.”‘Integrated therapy’ as opposed to ‘healing therapy’. Healing makes you think immediately, “There’s something that must be healed. There’s something that’s wrong.”
It’s in this system that doesn’t belong in the system, as opposed to something that might not see integrated into the system, which is why it becomes cancer. This is a show about conscious pivoting. It’s wonderful to be able to speak with somebody that’s committed to what it is, and how we’re all built and made up. You’re doing something profound, and that’s what I told you brother, James. I said “What you’re doing more than makes sense to me. It is something I feel good about supporting.” I’d love to know if there’s some pivot in your life that you’ve had either in your personal life or in business life that you were able to glean some special lessons from that you’d like to share.
There was a pivot to decide to engage in business at all. My work previous to that was all in either non-profit or academics. A lot of the nonprofit was think tank work. Some of it was working in environmental work, social justice, and animal rights, but then quickly realized that despite the good work being done and for businesses and government and in non-profits, there were key issues like ocean acidification and biodiversity loss that were getting worse rapidly, heading towards points of irreversibility in the face of the collective work that was being done by everybody. We didn’t need more of that kind of work. We needed a fundamentally different set of approaches. You work with a number of other think tanks that was focused on comprehensive civilization upgrade. What is the future of macroeconomics that only incents positive behavior, that aligns the incentive of all agents for the well-being of other agents in the common, so there’s no externality?
What is the future of governance and decision making that can form on the positive decisions adequate to the speed of which we need to make decisions, the complexity of the decisions, the entire number of interrelating factors like represented democracy can do it, retrofits capitalism. No other previously proposed systems can either. The technologies that are mandating us to move into these systems are something possible, fundamental new systems. Technological automation that’s going to obsolete 30% of all jobs in the next 15 years is also what makes it to where we don’t need the jobs. One of the core ideas of capitalism is how do you incent people to do the shitty jobs of labor in economy because they have done is going to do them. They don’t need done by humans, just automate them which means when the jobs don’t need the humans anymore, you can also move the economic system where the humans don’t need the jobs and move in the Commonwealth Economics. It’s one of many examples where the technology that requires us to shift is also changing the axioms of how we thought about it.
Having worked on economics so deeply because we realized, “As long as we learn how to manage war, and as long as we have capitalism and war together, then we make military manufacturers that are for profits.”You could look at all that together for a profit, military industrial complex. They’ve developed the capacity to supply a demand, that demand has to continue, for them to continue to have supply. How do we have the world without war, and for profit military industrial complex coexisting? You can’t. This is a big set of shifts. How do you have the world with robust health that prevents disease, while having a health care set to your system that only makes people sick? You can’t. You have to change interline structures deeply. How do you have it were whales were worth a million dollars dead on a fishing boat, and there worth nothing alive in the oceans to anyone? You can’t. We have a system of macroeconomics that incense exactly the opposite of collective well-being and heaps of this that are foundational to its structure. I’ve been focused on the transition of economics to post-capitalist economics, wanting to build a business was the last thing in my mind. I wanted to obsolete what we think of as businesses, and all the nonsense of intellectual property. Is the best phone an iPhone or Google phone?
The best phone that could exist can’t exist because intellectual property keeps the good parts from being able to synthesize. There’s so much radical duplication that occurs and so much that goes into marketing and shooting stuff as opposed to product development. It had an evolutionary relevance. It’s profoundly inefficient but also destructive set of systems. As I was working with the kind of the science, strategy, and architecture of how future systems could work and wanting to build influence current nonprofits and current for profits to be able to do better things. I saw that their structures were not well enough set up to do a lot of the things they wanted to do and that we’d have to be able to take responsibility for prototyping the things you wanted to prototype. I didn’t see a way forward that didn’t involve starting things that look like businesses. Even though the eventual goal is to transition the underlying structures of what we call business and catalysts. In order to do that I had to knock on pivot point of view. The idea of being an entrepreneur was the farthest thing from my identity. Philosopher, yes; scientist, yes; activist yes; entrepreneurial, no. That doesn’t mean not entrepreneurial in the outside of capitalism sense of creative, that was inventor. The entrepreneur as a result of it but in capitalism, the idea of marketer was the worst thing ever.
If you think about it from that point of view of, “Look at how much we put into marketing budgets rather than into product development, have me two products not add more novel value to people’s lives.” I’ve always wanted to get rid of marketing as a whole, to get rid of the entire space, synthesize all of the product technology, and then have people have access to the best ship without a marketing labor in between that misinforms what is good with emotional marketing conversion analytics. Having to say, “I’m going to market to be able to develop the science and technology that I want.”Prototype-wise even though it will have to move in other systems, that was not trivial for me. Even though saying, “This is very different than what my long range goals are, it is the best step in service to it.”
I have to download an entirely new element of personality because I can’t continue to feel that conflicted. It was, “How do I download the identity of entrepreneur or marketer? It seems the beauty rather than the dysfunction in it, and then it integrates with the other parts that doesn’t do the dysfunctional part, and uses it in an adaptive way. That was a very interesting non-trivial pivot, to say I want to take science tech, philosophy strategy, and move it into a business because it’s a vehicle that in the current landscape, I can advance further, faster toward. It’s an identity level pivot. It wasn’t a strategy level pivot because you have to add a module to identity.
You go into a phone booth and you’re like Clark Kent. You walked in as Clark Kent, but you’re converged into same person, but different identity. There has to be a shift in that phone booth.
My value systems of what I seek to serve are deeper to me than what I have skill on or what I like because what I like would have been different had I grown up in a different culture. What my skill sets would have been different had I done a different college program. That’s still changeable. What I love the most and seek to serve the most is deeper and less changing than those other things. I’m like, “If adding entrepreneurial marketer allows me to serve the things that I care about more in this particular environment, in this particular time period then it is in service to the deepest aspect of self, which is the values to bring in modules.”
Share a little bit about the business.
The business is called Neurohacker Collective. It’s in the process of going through a rollup merger with some other companies that we love and we’re partnering with. We’re focused on technologies of well-being. They can optimize neurologic function, physiologic function. In the near term future, also psychologic function, to increase quality of human life, human experience, and human capability. Our specific approach, which is different than other wellness or medicine approaches has to do with complex comprehensive systems science approach. This involves a few things, it involves personalization. It involves addressing multiple systems simultaneously. It involves synthesis of multiple different strategies, and applying synergy. We saw that there were major sources of human suffering, physical pain, anxiety, depression, etc, as well as chronic illness. We had an approach that we believe could do something novel to address. Our early testing showed that was true, and that we were able to make major changes that hadn’t been believed to be modifiable or correctable things. Beyond addressing human suffering and increasing individual human quality of life, as we look at the major macro issues of the world, whether we’re talking about religious extremism, female genital mutilation, violence towards children, overfishing of the oceans, or total biodiversity loss, all these issues are human behavior mediated. Changing them requires changing patterns of human behavior.
The focus of changing economics is because economic stress patterns of human behavior. You may be worth a million dollars, and that incentive system drives human behavior. You have to change macroeconomics incentives. Economics is one thing that affects human behaviors, not the only thing. All of the social systems that lead to incentive, status, and the game theory dynamics are things that you need to change. Environmental psychology and the way environment conditions pattern human behaviors. The software, which is largely where I imagine you focus for their clients in terms of changing people’s definition of success, their definition of self-definition, of other working with integration healing trauma, there are strategies for how to navigate the world, all of that is key to patterns of human behavior. So is physiology. This is one of the things we start to look at. In order to address the problems of the world at scale, we have to have humans that are not predisposed to continue causing those problems. It’s a big deal. Also have to have humans that are predisposed to solve the problems and to create beauty. This means humans that are oriented towards more empathy, more emotional resilience, more creativity, more multi-perspective taking and perspective synthesis, more complex thinking to be able to solve complex problems.
While all of that can be affected at the level of software, and must be, we saw that empathy is mediated over certain neural networks, mediated by certain neurochemistry, and that it can be down or up regulated physiologically. So occluded complexity of thinking, so could impulse control, so could many of those dynamics. We started looking at neurochemical and neural structural predisposition for ecopathy, for sociopathy on one extreme, and how to not only prevent and correct those dynamics, but also continue to support the evolution of vicarious experience, empathy beyond baseline intelligence. We talk about increasing human sovereignty, and by sovereignty we mean the product of people’s intelligence, agency, and sentience. Their sentience is their ability to sense the world. This means sense themselves, have more inner awareness. Because of that, vicarious sensing of other people, empathy, and more perceptivity about going around them mindfulness, depth of feeling. This means their intelligence to process all of what they sense, to make meaning out of it, and to understand the causation and dynamics and get effective solutions could look like. Their agency, their abilities to act on it in the world with increased adaptive capacity and power.
This is sensory input information processing actuator output closing cycle. How do we increase that whole thing, which is both going to relate to their quality of life individually, and the way that they are an agent for the quality of life purposing to touch? Neurohacker’s focused on how do we increase human sovereignty? What are all the technologies that are relevant to that? As far as the biology goes, what can we do to support the human bio system, to predispose more sovereign, adaptive agents increased quality of human experience, human capacity, and choice making. That’s through chemistry that affects cognitive ability, psychological resilience. Chemistry is just one pathway, we are very interested in every pathway. On physiology, EEG neuro feedback, transcranial stimulation, closed loop neural feedback, microbiomes mix. All of those were technology agnostic. It’s not a particular technology categories we’re interested in. We’re interested in technologies that work by increasing system resilience, rather than overwriting it that took you in a particular range.
It’s fundamentally different than the peripheral medical approach. Our goal is not to identify a specific range of biomarkers we want people to be in, and if they’re too high, give them something that externally lowers it. If it’s too low, give them something external raise it. Identify what’s going on with their own regulatory systems and increased regulatory capacity in their system, so they are more adaptive, more resilient. That’s the gist of what we’re working on doing here is how do we optimize human quality of life and human capability to be a positive force for quality of life of everything else. If we look at the balance sheet of nature, if we think about the earth’s balance sheet, most humans are on the liabilities side of nature’s balance sheet. Humans all have to move to the asset side, which means that they are doing more net positive to the balance sheet of the commons than they are net negative. We’re not even in the realm of that, and we need to be very quickly. We want to increase the balance sheet of the psychological emotional balance sheet of the human and where they live on nature’s balance sheet.
You’re technology agnostic. You’ve developed certain products that you are using. Where can people find out more information?
The company started under three years ago. We only moved into sharing products with people about six months ago. We’re in testing with people over that entire time, but in terms of actual marketing. The essence of how we do marketing is education. If people are interested and aligned, great. We had one product that is for sale. It’s available, it’s called Qualia. We have a handful more that are in various phases of development. Why we started with Qualia? Number of reasons, one is taking pills is a much more familiar thing to people than hooking up transcranial devices to their head. There’s a much lower barrier to entry to something that there’s already familiarity with. It requires almost no deep behavior modifications, so that’s also a low barrier of entry from a total behavioral input point of view compared to intermittent fasting, or exercise, or something that takes some real work. It can lead to increased predisposition to do those other things by its dynamic on motivational chemistry.
You were talking about the pressure for productivity, and how we have simultaneously increasing pressure for productivity while having an increasing number of topics that we’re trying to be productive across simultaneously, while having more and more that is distracting and shortening attention span, and things relevant to productivity. We also have more physiologic stresses from indoor, outdoor pollution, diet, etc. That’s a lot, and as a result of it, we’ve seen an exponential increase on off label Adderrall sales of people who are trying to deal with their productive capacity, which is totally reasonable, and energy drinks, and five-hour energy, and others from drugs. Most of these are psychostimulant. Billions of dollars in things to help people sleep. Chemistry to sleep, chemistry to wake up and be productive, chemistry to tune up, and we’re fans of chemistry, but we’re fans of chemistry that have more comprehensively positive effects and have longer term positive, and at minimum, the longer term neutral rather than negative effects. That means that it’s going to have to work with the way the body regulates its own chemistry, rather than override the way the body does chemistry.
Most of the tentative psychostimulants that people have used for productivity enhancement, cognitive enhancement, Adderall’s a great example. I’m not talking here about actual prescription Adderall for relevant things so we could argue whether or not they’re ever irrelevant, but I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about off label use which, is huge whether it’s people studying for midterms or finals, or whether it’s people’s tech startup or whatever. When you take a dopamine agonist, it’s going to synthetically increase dopamine specifically. When you aren’t supporting the entire dopamine production regulatory process, then the body becomes dependent upon an external ratings agonist dopamine simulation process. If you do that long term then you get down regulation of your own endogenous dopamine process, which means addiction and addiction dependence. If you are doing exogenous stimulation, you get a more fixed level of dopamine as opposed to more adaptive capacity for your body to change its own dopamine levels based on what it’s doing. When you want to chill out, you’re dopamine high. Dopamine by itself is not going to produce the cognitive effect someone wants, it’s going to increase focus, and it’s going to increase drive. It’s not going to increase working memory. You get a very narrow increase in some things, you get a decrease of other things that are meaningful to your goal in real time, and then longer turn down regulation.
Our goal was could we produce a much more comprehensive set of real time increases to the things that matter, while having our long-term effects be neutral or positive on the same metrics and other metrics, which will require a fundamentally different approach? It’s not going to be any pharma approach because the way the economics are structured where it has to be patentable to ever be able to make enough money to go through FDA approval, so it has to be synthetic, it has to be a single molecule. How could a synthetic, single molecule ever comprehensively up regulate, meaning synthetic. It’s not part of your normal, endogenous chemistry and your normal chemistry involves so many simultaneous parallel and sequential pathways. How could that comprehensively radiate? You couldn’t. It’s structurally not reasonable approach to that kind of thing. Medicines, so far western medicines done good job with acute illness. If there’s one cause of the issue that it could acute infection or an acute injury, then it can deal with an acute solution to that single molecule can deal with, that if it’s a single pathway. If we’re talking about lots of pathways, then we need a different way of approaching it.
When people are taking cognitive enhancers, when you look at what they want, they want a creative productive flow state where their cognitive capacities are engaged. Which is different than the flow state and athlete wants, where their cognitive capacity is being online, their linguistic capacities aren’t relevant. You hear, the guys talking about flow state for prefrontal cortex is shutting down, and people are in an automated response set. If you’re trying to write a book, if you’re trying to do science, if you’re trying to do a mid-term, if you’re trying to figure out how to do your tech start up, you need a different kind of flow state than that. What does it mean to have a sense of flow, a sense of heightened creativity, a sense of heightened productivity, to have heightened productivity and where all of your hardened abilities are online? It involves cognitive capacities like speeded memory, total working memory, short-term, long-term memory, digits fan, verbal fluency. Intensity of concentration, duration of focus, tasks switching. These are very opposite things. If I get intensity of focus, I get pissed off if someone distracts me.
Usually if I have task switching, including intelligence I can’t focus at heart on anything. We won’t really be deeply impressed with something and then be able to know if we need to the depressant come back. How do we do all of those different functions simultaneously? Those are cognitive abilities, while also having an increased sense of purposefulness, meaningfulness, drive, emotional resilience. Analysis, critical thinking, synthesis, creative thinking. It would take a lot of different things, so that we started by modeling the space of what we’re seeking to affect for cognitive science point of view. Then looking at what are all the physiologic pathways that are known they’re involved in mediating all those functions. Then what chemistries can support those pathways, and then which are those chemistries are generally well tolerated, synergistic with each other, have good data on them.
That was the beginning of our hypothesis process for generating a complex chemistry formula. There’s lots of different ingredients affecting lots of different pathways, different neurotransmitters, for kind of short-term effect but also longer term effects of supporting neurogenesis, synaptogenesis for effecting structure and brain. Then we went into an iterative process where we were taking our own hypothesis and testing them and let me getting feedback, iterating until we got to a place that we’re happy with it. It is continued iteration forever because that’s nature evolution. That’s Qualia. It is not intended to treat any disease, we make no medical claims about. The experience people have been reporting on it has been remarkable, productive.
What’s the best way for people to follow their curiosity and learn more?
Neurohacker.com is our website. We’ve got a science section that describes our approach, the formulation, science research. It’s focused around Qualia because that’s the first product that’s available. As the other products come online, they’ll be there, and a total and education information on the site will continue. There’s a lot of projects that we are engaged on that aren’t referenced on the site at all yet because we’re putting things up as they are available for people to engage us. We look to forward to having more to share soon.
Thank you for your time. Our vision is to create peace through self-actualization, so we’re all about helping people do the things that create peace for themselves. There’s a simple philosophy.”When enough people are selflessly focused on creating their own peace, we’ll have a tipping point where there’s more peace in the world in any given moment, there’ll be more peace in the world than anything else.”That’s a shifting event for all of us. Thank you so much.
Thank you. We’re not a company. We happened to be a company. We’re people with a mission that happens to be the vehicle that allows the mission to exist right now. Reasons why, even as a company, we have collected in the name of collectivist to achieve the mission, given the scale it is, we need to participate with everyone that’s doing really wonderful work. We will not only make products if there is a major gap between the best of what’s currently available and what we know how to make. If there’s something that’s already near the best of what’s scientifically possible, we’d rather partner. Is it hard to make stuff? It takes a lot of cycles. If anyone has done a good job with it, we’d love to partner up. This already is the beginning of partnership between us and I’m honored.
Thanks again for listening. I hope you’ll share this podcast and comment on it. I’d love to hear your comments, your questions, and topics of interest for upcoming podcasts. Don’t forget to follow us on social media if you haven’t already. Ciao for now.
- Association of Transformational Leaders
- Daniel Schmachtenberger
- Neurohacker Collective
- The Making of a Corporate Athlete
- The Presence Process
- Adam Markel’s social media
About Daniel Schmachtenberger
Daniel Schmachtenberger is a social engineer and evolutionary philosopher and strategist. He is the founder of Critical Path Institute, a research and design project aimed at the development of an integrated set of technologies and processes capable of organizing and supporting a distributed and and continually updating, comprehensive critical path management system for Humanity’s total evolution.
He has worked to repurpose and synthesize relevant state-of-the-art systems for information management, complexity processing, mathematical forecasting, and other data science tools into an integrated set of functions capable of global resource allocation planning and strategy.
His goal is the shortest path to a fundamentally redesigned world-system that makes possible and supports the highest quality of life for all life, now and ongoingly. Specifically, his focus is on the development of new systems of economics and governance that intrinsically incentivize life-enhancing behaviors at all levels of agency, supporting distributed and spontaneous problem solving and conscious participation in our global evolution.