This week our guest is Josiah Zayner, who just might be the most prominent and controversial biohacker out there right now. He’s done numerous experiments that have drawn both positive and negative attention, such as transplanting the microbiome of another person into his body, attempting to genetically alter the color of his skin, and injecting CRISPR modifications into his body to enhance his muscles.
As radical as these things may sound, he does have a PhD in biosphysics and previously worked for NASA genetically modifying organisms for mars, so he’s not exactly an amateur.
In this episode we explore Josiah’s journey from traditional scientist to biohacker, and along the way discuss the possibilities of gene editing, the dangers, and how we should regulate and navigate this future inevitability.
You can access Josiah's company at the-odin.com and follow him personally at twitter.com/4lovofscience
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Host: Steven Parton - LinkedIn / Twitter
Music by: Amine el Filali
people, crispr, technology, science, crazy, organism, scientists, vaccine, gene therapies, tested, adult, generally, humans, body, grow, enzyme, inject, thinking, pandemic, happen
Josiah Zayner, Steven Parton
Josiah Zayner 00:00
If we want a future that's equitable, how do we make this technology safe and available to the most amount of people possible? And nobody's really thinking about that question.
Steven Parton 00:24
Hello, everyone, my name is Steven Parton and you are listening to the feedback loop on singularity radio, where we keep you up to date on the latest technological trends, and how they're impacting the transformation of consciousness and culture. This week, our guest is Josiah saner, who might just be the most prominent and controversial biohacker that is out there right now. He's done numerous experiments that have drawn both positive and negative attention his way, such as transplanting the microbiome of another person into his own body, attempting to genetically alter the color of his skin, and injecting CRISPR modifications into his body to enhance his muscles. as radical as these things may sound, Josiah does have a PhD in biophysics, and he previously worked for NASA genetically modified organisms for Mars. So he's not exactly an amateur. So in this episode, what we do is explore design his journey from traditional scientists to bio hacker. And along the way, we discussed the possibilities of gene editing, the dangers and how we might regulate and navigate this technology that is rapidly changing the world. Now if you are interested in discussing similar topics with like minded peers as well, be sure to check the links in the episode description, where you'll find out how to join our free community where conversations like this are taking place every day. But for now, let's go ahead and get into this conversation. So everyone, please welcome to the feedback loop, Josiah
Josiah Zayner 01:58
Steven Parton 02:04
We're just gonna start at the beginning, as all good story should, which really, I think should be the fact that you originally took a very traditional, and what many would consider, like a successful path. You had your PhD in biophysics, you started working for NASA modifying organisms for life on Mars, which sounds incredibly badass. But then all of a sudden, you stopped doing that and you decide to do something that is much more non traditional, you start moving into the realm of biohacking. What motivated that transition for you.
Josiah Zayner 02:39
You know, uh, when I first started in academia, well, I did a master's degree, and then I went into my PhD and during my PhD, there was nothing more that I dreamed of than like being academic Professor scientist, I mean, that's kind of what they train you to do. You know, it's like a system that is meant to spit out academic professors, obviously, like you can't become an academic Professor any other way, by like, getting a PhD. The problem is, is that very few people actually wind up with academic professorships, but they're trying to convince everybody that like, Oh, you know, you're going to be an academic professor, like, go work towards being an academic professor, which isn't necessarily the worst thing. I'm not saying that I couldn't have been an academic professor. But what I saw is that these people just like, want to move up the ranks you do less and less science, and you spend more and more time just grant writing, or writing papers or doing things that are just like, not what a scientist should be doing. And it's crazy, because what will happen is that the peak of your career, get your PhD, you do a postdoc, you know, you've published a bunch of papers by that point that you know, are, you know, generally really good science if you're getting a professorship and then you're just supposed to, like, give that all up, and you're just supposed to not do like science anymore. You're just supposed to, you know, basically be an administrator or manager or whatever you want to call it. And that's, that's awfully disheartening to realize is that like, this thing that you love, you know, a lot of people go into graduate school do it because they love science because, like, Who's gonna suffer through six years of bullshit, and like, you know, just because like nobody, and then like, nowadays, three to six years of like a postdoc, getting paid, like 40 or $50,000 a year, like who's gonna do that unless you at least somewhat love the science.
Steven Parton 04:45
I just started k up and I just turned down a PhD because I learned all of these things. And it was so disheartening to me just like you said, it was like, six, six or seven years of study six years of postdoc and then you have To fight for the 1% of positions that are real, and you have to follow wherever that job takes you to so you don't even get to choose where you
Josiah Zayner 05:08
live. Oh yeah, no, I have friends who are in like crazy places and you're just like, oh, man, that sucks. You know, he got a professorship someplace, you know, not not like a bad place or something like that. But like, who really wants to live in like Bloomington, Indiana or something, you know, or like, that's
Steven Parton 05:27
not where I grew up. Yeah, I grew up in Valparaiso, actually. Okay, yeah.
Josiah Zayner 05:33
But, you know, it's like, I don't know, I would rather live near a big city, but then getting a professorship at a university that's near a big city or something like that is extremely difficult. And, you know, you're even though scientists are like, Oh, we have so much freedom we, we can research whatever we want. They can't, they're stuck researching things that they can get grants for, or that are publishable. You know, it's like all the cool science that we all want to see. Doesn't happen, right? Like, we sometimes read about it. And everybody, like calls the person crazy, but like, nobody's like cutting heads off. monkeys and trying to put them on like this horses and stuff like that, like so. And monkey arms on like frogs, like, all the weird stuff is like, totally taboo, and like science won't fund it, or you can't do it and all this stuff. And it's like, wait, I thought that was like, the point of science is like, get to this place where you can do all this cool stuff, right? You can try to make like a frog grow wings, or like, you know, all this weird stuff that we read about in science fiction, like everybody wants to do that stuff, but like, nobody's actually doing it.
Steven Parton 06:44
Now, did you feel those same restrictions at NASA, then?
Josiah Zayner 06:48
Well, I'll get to that in a sec. Oh, sure. Oh, yeah. So it's just like, all my gosh, you know, like, everybody says, they can research what they want, when you ask them, you know, are you researching what they're want? They're like, yeah, and then you're like, what are you researching? They're like, fruit fly sex or something. And you're like, nobody actually wants to research that. Come on. Like, there's zero people in the world, if you give them a choice, here's like, a billion dollar research, whatever you want, would they choose for vice x? No, they'd be like, I want to make, like, X amount or something. Um, and so I was like, Well, you know, I'm gonna leave academia. And it was actually, you know, I was at a conference, and I was presenting research and there was somebody for NASA there. And they were like, you should apply for this grant that we have. It'll give you some money and all this stuff. And you'll be able to research stuff for NASA and all this stuff. And I was like, Oh, you know, that's a, it sounds pretty crazy. Like I'll apply. So I wrote this, like, you know, 20 page grant proposal about some crazy stuff, like, I'm going to go on Mars and like, build structures, using like, like controlled organisms and enzymes, and all this other stuff from the Martian soil. And they were like, Alright, we'll fund it. And I was like, What? It's pretty surreal and weird, because you think like, most times people talk about like, I'm going to build a house on Mars, it's like ingest. Yeah, you know, it's not like, you're actually researching towards doing that. And so it's kind of you're either writing you know, you're like, laughing, you're like, I'm going to use this to build a house on Mars or something.
Steven Parton 08:35
This is the smart people, and they're gonna like it.
Josiah Zayner 08:41
They're gonna think I'm crazy. Who wouldn't think somebody was crazy? If they wrote something like that? You'd be like, Oh, sure, you are sure build houses on Mars, buddy. But it works. And I want a bit NASA and I was just like, wow, this is this is crazy. This is awesome. I met NASA and work with all these scientists who do experiments and have stuff on the International Space Station. What you could quickly come to realize is that like, not only is NASA like, it's still the government people don't understand that, I think is that like, even though they try to pretend like they're not the government, they still are. And so everything is super bureaucratic. And everything takes super long, right? And so you're just kind of like, Oh my gosh, like, we're stuck in this crazy, bureaucratic hole, where like, you say, I'm going to like, I'm going to work on a robot that's going to swim in the lakes of Europa or the hydrocarbon lakes of Europa, but like, when's the last time we would set anything even close to Europa, like 10 years ago? When's the next time we're going to send something they're like in another 30 years?
Steven Parton 09:51
So basically, your stuff on there, competing? Yeah,
Josiah Zayner 09:55
exactly. So basically, what you're doing is just like some mental masturbation Exercise, which is like fun, but like, it doesn't get you anywhere. Um, yeah. So it's kind of like, you know, I wanted to actually do real world stuff. That might have been a little crazy. Um, but just push the boundaries of what you know people thought was, how do you say acceptable science?
Steven Parton 10:21
So that jumped you into the bio hacking. But what was the first thing that you started doing with the bio hacking? Like, what was the impetus there that made you think, alright, I want to work on this project specifically? Yeah, it was actually
Josiah Zayner 10:35
with CRISPR, because at NASA was working with CRISPR a little bit. And I remember reading the papers that came out about CRISPR. And, you know, they were like, Oh, you know, you got this, like, Pam sequence, and this tracer RNA and this crrna, and you got cast nine, and you got all this stuff. You know, the ngg, depends on which strand it's on. It was just like so convoluted, it was just like crazy. I was just like, what this is so hard to understand, why isn't there just like a simple guide for somebody to understand it. Finally, when I understood it, at least to a certain extent, I was like, This really isn't that complicated. It's just like, nobody's presenting it in easily digestible manner. And I was like, this is actually really simple stuff, right? You got your caste nine enzyme, right? that binds a piece of RNA. Now we call it a guide RNA that contains the CR RNA and the tracer RNA. And that binds a DNA sequence. And the caste nine enzyme cuts the DNA sequence. And you could make a genetic change if you want or genetic change happens because you cut it. And it was like, well, it's really simple. All you have to do is like I put this caste nine enzyme and the guide RNA that targets a specific piece of DNA into a cell. And CRISPR happens, right? genetically modified an organism. And, you know, CRISPR is like one of the most typed genetic technique, genetic engineering techniques right now. And, you know, back then, you know, 567 years ago, whatever it was,
Steven Parton 12:10
do you think it's overhyped? Or do you think the hype is warranted?
Josiah Zayner 12:14
I mean, everything's overhyped, you know?
Steven Parton 12:18
What, what are the what are the limitations with CRISPR? Like, a lot of people think when you talk about this kind of stuff, that you could do something to an adult person, like start changing their arm to like a gecko arm or something. But for my understanding, you know, there's a lot of limitations, especially on people who are already like live, you can do stuff in fertilization, or in vitro, or whatever. But on adult humans, for example, it's much more difficult to actually change like real, kind of do the superhuman kind of stuff, but like to think about, but what is that limitation? slash? Yeah, you
Josiah Zayner 12:53
have to think about that, like as adults, like, we've already structurally formed our bodies, right? Not 100%, right. But like, generally, we structurally formed our bodies. So like, all embryos, all embryos, no matter what organism generally start out in the same body patterning thing, right? So all, you know, animals, and they move through these stages, like the first two stages of embryogenesis, like, very, very similar. If you looked at pictures, you might not even be able to tell the difference between like, what animal it was right? But then the body starts telling the genes and everything start telling the body what to do, right, like grow a tail, or grow to arms or grow this or grow that. And that's when you know, the body axes and everything starts to differentiate and turn into stuff. Now, it's not to say that, like adults, you couldn't grow stuff, you definitely can, right. There's adult animals that they can regenerate limbs and things like that. It's just figuring out how to do that. Generally, what I like to think of with science is like what's possible and what's probable. And right now the probability of say, like growing an extra limb in an adult human is pretty small. Is it possible totally, like, we know, we can grow limbs, we know other animals can grow limbs, once they're chopped off, even as adults, it's just understanding how all those mechanisms are going to play, and how to like recapitulate that in an adult human, which will probably be a while. So generally adults right now we're limited to modifications that a little goes a long way. Right? And by that I mean like, um, you know, generally like metabolic things or things like that. They're usually targeting something when they do gene therapies where like, if you make a little bit of changes, it'll like help you. You know, use an enzyme to help process something or something like that. Even things like muscular dystrophy, they're trying to catch it before the children are like to. So then they can still influence kind of, like the structural integrity of the body. So they're not like too old, even though you still might have some effects, but whatever. Um, but like, you know, as an older adult, it's a, it's kind of limited in terms of like serious changes, like phenotypic changes.
Steven Parton 15:33
And are you focused? I mean, in your personal experiments, since you are an adult, and you're using your own body, obviously, you're focusing more on those types of changes, but like, what are some of the changes that you think are going to happen in that area that you think are possible that are maybe not being explored?
Josiah Zayner 15:51
Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, there have been a number of papers on that have shown gene therapies work in different things. So one of them is a like I think you mentioned is a you know, Mio stat. And generally they try to knock down the the effect of the Myostatin gene. So Myostatin is this gene that generally like reduces your muscle mass, because like, if you constantly make muscle, you know, normal animal bodies are built for that it consumes a lot of calories and stuff like that. So it helps regulate. So you have like a reasonable amount of muscle. But there's this gene called folate Staton, which inhibits Myostatin. So there are gene therapies that have been developed and worked on that involve fullest and to reduce the amount of Myostatin in your in your body and bloodstream. And there have been some with like, Becker, muscular muscular dystrophy, that has shown that like, when you inject the legs of these people with muscular dystrophy, adults, you can increase the ambulatory distance, so like how far they can walk, right, which is like, Wow, that's great. Like, you know, like, there's an effect on people's actual muscle, like, they can walk further after they get this muscle, you know, gene therapy and their legs. But like these things, they cost money, you know, finding the people to be involved in the clinical trials, finding cohorts that you can get your clinic, clinical trial prove, because clinical trials are experiments, right? You don't invest a billion dollars in an experiment. No, you go in, like, it's gonna work, this drug is gonna work or else like our company's going bust. And there have been other ones, um, with EPO, you know, EPO is what a lot of cyclists and other people have used to dope, it's actually a gene, I'm a little protein, and you can do gene therapy, that will increase the EPO in your bloodstream, and obviously, that increases the oxygenation. and stuff like that, and veg F, which is a protein that increases, um, like the amount of veins that grow in different tissue, they get tested out in diabetics, you know, because diabetics will tend to have like, lack of blood flow to the extremities. Um, there's all these things that have tested that we know at least have a chance of working, that we could use that we could try.
Steven Parton 18:21
And that's like, one of the big things that motivate you, right, is the fact that there's a lot of stuff we could try that we aren't tried. So can you talk a little bit about, like, maybe what the regulatory landscape is for, like, things like CRISPR, and how you feel about making these technologies like open to the masses to start just playing with these tools?
Josiah Zayner 18:41
Yeah, it's really crazy, you know, um, and it's really controversial. And I don't know if you've heard about it, but you know, a mid like 2020, me and a couple other people worked on a DIY COVID vaccine, which was a gene therapy, a lot of these new COVID vaccines are gene therapies, essentially, they're putting genes into your cells that make this viral spike protein. And when your cells make the viral spike protein, then your cells have an immune response to the spike of protein. And you can develop antibodies. So instead of like what they do with some vaccines is the like, you know, inactivated virus and injected in so the proteins are there or like try to create the protein separately and inject that in. But people are learning that maybe this gene therapy works better, probably for some host of immunological reasons the presenting of the protein to your immune system and how your immune system recognizes it and stuff like that. And we did, you know, pretty rigorous testing on this. We tested it in human cells, previously to what we started was actually tested in monkeys and shown to work in monkeys. And so we're like, you know, let's, why would it work? Do humans let's give it a shot. And so we tested human cells, and we tested our antibodies, and we tested our ability of our antibodies to neutralize the virus. So we did a bunch of tests on it after we inject ourselves with two doses. And it seemed to work all of our bodies seem to have develop a, an immune response, and a viral neutralizing immune response. Now, gosh, something like that, you know, especially this is before vaccines were even being distributed, we're talking, we ordered the paper came out in May 20, we ordered the vaccine had it manufactured. And we received it probably in like, July of 2020. And then we, you know, ran through all these experiments, because we wanted to do it the right way, and just not, you know, I'm injecting myself with this and YOLO. And so we probably finished up I think we finished up around September of 2020. And, you know, most people didn't get their vaccines until, you know, February, March of 2021, or later. Um, now, recently, within the past few weeks or month, India has said that they're using the same exact COVID vaccine, we did write a DNA vaccine that encodes for the spike protein, right? In humans, and you're just like, holy shit, man, you know, like, we tested this thing out over a year ago. And like, if, if peoples lie, I mean people's lives are on the line. But like, if more lives are on the line, like what is it going to take for the regulatory system to be like, Look, we can't wait a year to distribute a vaccine to people, you know, if this pandemic was worse than it was, if it instead of killing, you know, hundreds of 1000s of people, it killed hundreds of millions or 10s of millions of people. Like, we can't wait that long. This is ridiculous. You know, like, Who's gonna wait that long? Right? And so we have to figure out a way to allow quicker, innovative science to happen, you know, how many lives have been saved in India? I don't know. Maybe? I would think maybe sama?
Steven Parton 22:29
Do you think a lot of people would have the the know how to really do that kind of work, though? Like the people who are maybe, let's say, ordering the CRISPR kits that I think you sell? No, I
Josiah Zayner 22:38
mean, I don't I don't encourage people to, like, do a DNA vaccine that well, you know, if their life's at stake,
Steven Parton 22:44
what about like less serious things? So let's say something that's not like life threatening? What do you think about like the regulations around stuff that is more? I would say, kind of playful, right? Like, not not necessarily playful with the stuff that you did with, like, the gut biome thing? I think that's very serious and huge for somebody whose health but like, just pure experimentation, how much space should we make for people to just play with these technologies?
Josiah Zayner 23:09
I don't know. You know, I might piss people off when I say this, but like, my body, my choice, you know, like, I think I think people don't see body autonomy, as like a holistic thing. You know, obviously, abortion is very important thing. But like, I think body autonomy encompasses a lot of different things. It's not just abortion, right. And like, I should have that choice over my body, like, I should be able to decide what I put into it. Right? And like, I should be able to get medical care if I put something into it, that maybe hurts me or something like that, I should be able to have doctors who work with me to try to put stuff in my body, like, I think the thing is, is it's like, once you start outlawing it, you push it into the underground, right. And that's a lot of people's arguments with abortion is like people are going to try to get abortions, you know, not safe ways, if you start pushing into the underground or outlawing it. And so like, keep it legal, so that at least you can give people proper medical care and attention and stuff like that. And I think it's the same way like medical doctors and medical professionals aren't allowed to experiment, right? They can't just be like, you're sick, and you're dying. Let's try something crazy. No, there's like a list of things that they can do that the FDA says they can prescribe and do. And that's it. You think
Steven Parton 24:37
we probably need both kinds, right? We need space for people to play kind of dangerously and then let them be caught by the people who are playing by the rules.
Josiah Zayner 24:45
Totally like here's the thing is that like, number one, like I don't want my Advil to be like, contaminated or like you know, have a risk of dying from it, right. So some amount already. regulation is definitely good, especially on mass produced drugs that there's not a lot of risk but I think some amount of risk needs to be baked into the system whereas right now we're like, you know, if you kill somebody in a clinical trial it's it's terrible. You know, especially you look at like this Coronavirus stuff you're like, you know, how many and it's a tough question, but you have to ask people like, how much is a human life worth right? Is it worth sacrificing one person in a clinical trials that we would have saved 500,000 lives for from the Coronavirus? Most people might say, yeah, as long as it's not me,
Steven Parton 25:49
kind of a trolley problem, right?
Josiah Zayner 25:50
Yeah. But like, I think we can all agree there's a number, right? If you say like, Is it worth sacrificing one person to? from killing everybody on earth? Yeah, I don't think anybody's that that can make a good argument that says like, no, that's not good. No, like, wiping out the human race is, you know, the worst thing that could happen, it doesn't matter. Anything else after that,
Steven Parton 26:14
I'd be that one person just because of how bad just to save the entire planet, you know,
Josiah Zayner 26:19
so we have a number and then you start thinking like, how big is that number? You know, is it like the whole earth? What about half the earth? Is it worth risking one person's life? Half the earth? You're probably like, yeah, that's probably still pretty good. That's a lot of people, you know, we're talking billions of people, then you start trying to work that number down, and you're like, what is the limit? Like, where do we go? And I'm not the one who wants to make that decision. But realistically, that's what the FDA bioethicists and all these people are for, they need to make these decisions, like, what's the risk reward for this thing, right? And we're going to have to make this decision on like, how fast we can push this through, because, you know, maybe we could have saved a ton of lives, if we just said, Alright, this vaccine is available, it's untested. So like, take it at your own risk, but like, we're going to figure out if it works, generally, it should be mostly safe. Let's go with it. And just see what happens. I think a lot of people would have been more trusting a lot of people would have been willing to take it. Um, you know, and yeah, I think that's that's where a future needs to go is have some sort of risk reward analysis for medical treatment.
Steven Parton 27:32
What about things like with pathogens, I know that's like that, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this, because I think when everybody thinks about CRISPR, or like gene editing, the fear they all have is, frankly, something like COVID, where they're going to do like some gain a functioning thing or garage, it's going to get out in that, like, 25 year old who got a CRISPR kit releases, like the next pandemic, like, what about regulations there? What's even really possible there with something like CRISPR more with bio hacking for that matter?
Josiah Zayner 28:04
Oh, for sure. I mean, there's definitely one day going to be I mean, if COVID was saying, whether was or was it, you know, but there's definitely going to be some biological terrorists. To me, there have been right. I'm just much smaller and dumb stuff. I think, there was at one cult, in the northwest of the United States that like sprayed a bunch of food and like a buffet with like, I forget the coal lie or something like that, and got a bunch of people sick. And these things do happen, and they're gonna happen, like for sure. 100%. But like, I think the bigger question is number one, like, why would you want to do a biological attack? Right? Like, if I want to hurt people, right? Like, I have a hole, you can turn a pressure cooker into a bomb, right? Why would I learn bio engineering to create some bio terrorist attack? That's going to be really hard to like, figure out if it works, right? Because you can't just be like, I made a couple of mutations in SARS COVID one and it became SARS COBie two, you got to test it, right? We didn't test it on, you're gonna be like kidnapping people and testing on them. I guess maybe you could do some animal experiments in guinea pigs or something, then hope it works in humans, but it might not also, and you got to have a lot of money. So we're talking like, you know, straight up comic book villain, you're becoming in order to do this, right. Which may happen, it may happen, but,
Steven Parton 29:45
but anything like that could happen at that point with almost anything you make a nuclear warhead at that point.
Josiah Zayner 29:50
Yeah. So it's just kind of like biological bio biology doesn't have a tent, right. So like if I get a bacteria and I'm growing it or something like that. It has intent, like the person who's trying to make the bad thing has intent, right? And then what you're trying to do is you're trying to just stop bad people from doing bad things, you're not necessarily trying to, you know, biology is an in and of itself, like safe, you're not going to accidentally make ecological disaster. Like you have to think about the search space of like a genome, let's say, right? So let's say a bacteria, you know, they're generally like 3 billion bases or something like that. And in order to like, let's say, make it pathogenic, and pH, stables so it can, like spread and do all this stuff, you have to make exact mutations and its genome, right, let's say like five exact mutations, and 3 billion base pair genome. And the chances of that happening on accident are just like, so astronomical that it takes, like the history of the the earth, which it has, right? We've had some of these viruses and bacteria evolve over the history of theirs, we're talking to like, billions of bacteria and billions of years. So like, the chances for that to happen accidentally are like, not really high. So somebody has to have intent, basically. And then once you get to that place of intent, you're like, Alright, are these DNA synthesis companies, you know, protecting from people ordering this stuff? Some of them are, some of them aren't. But that's like a government thing, right? What are the other things that governments are doing to prevent this from happening? And it's like, a, you know, not really much. But like, the level of difficulty in order to do it is also high. So you know, it becomes this problem of like, you know, who's gonna stop it, who's gonna worry about it and, and all this other stuff, but like, having accidentally or just like, people doing it, I think it's, it's a high tear compared to like, you know, buying a ak 47. And
Steven Parton 31:53
you said before that you consider yourself a social activists. So when you talk about, like, Who's gonna stop these kind of things, or the regulations that we've been talking about? Like, what is it that you feel like you're fighting for in terms of trying to open up this domain to people?
Josiah Zayner 32:10
on terms of that sort of stuff, you know, I would not put me in charge of making any laws or rules or regulations about things, you know, I'm not the person to make those because I'm too far in one spectrum. You know, you need somebody who's more in the middle. But like, I generally think access to knowledge and technology is a positive, we always see positives, right? And that's the crazy thing about biohacking. If you look at like, any sort of technology that was made accessible or open sourced or democratized, like it created a revolution and evolutionary jump in technology, right? You'll have computers, you'll get the printing press, you look at cars and vehicles, airplanes, like anything you could imagine when this technology became available to the masses is just like, boom, something exploded. And I think the same thing is true with biotechnology. Are you gonna need to have like a driver's license or stop signs? Or, you know, stoplights? Maybe What are those? I don't know. But like, I think that's okay, you know, like stop signs help us not accidentally hurting each other.
Steven Parton 33:20
Think about that with the internet, if I can use an analogy here, but like, if the internet had had been restricted to like, behind locked doors, you would see this very oppressive regime, I think, using this insanely powerful, too old to screw with people, or as in a way that Genie kind of got out of the bottle. You couldn't now you can't put the internet back in this little closed container. And the fact that it's so ubiquitous and open to everybody empowers a lot of people in a way that it might not have if we were like, this is too dangerous for the average person to have. So I kind of feel like that maybe relates.
Josiah Zayner 33:57
Yeah, oh, totally. And I think biotechnology is like one of the most powerful technologies that we have, right? The internet and computers. And that sort of technology is really cool. But it's digital, right? It's all digital, it's all held inside our computer. Sure, you can be like, Why can 3d print something or program or robot or something like that. But literally, all the stuff on Earth, all the living stuff is biological. So you're like, well, I can program living biological things, right? That's like self replicating matter, right? You can program the seed to grow into a tree, like what else can you program it to do? Once people have access to this technology and really understand it, like, the stuff they're going to create is just going to be beyond our comprehension right now, right? Because never in the history of the earth, have people been genetically modifying things. It's all been through like, yeah, a UV ray hits this organism and it changes one DNA base doesn't do anything good. No Nothing happens over billions a year, it takes billions of years for just like random mutations to cause some sort of positive evolution or genetic drift. And now we can just go in and say, like, I want this, I want a dragon. I'm going to try to make it right. And people are going to make it. Right. Is it possible to make a dragon 100%? Like, we know there are dinosaurs that could fly? Why can't we recreate that? It probably right now? Probably not. because nobody's really working on it. Because can't get a government grant or publish a favor?
Steven Parton 35:35
Probably to make a dragon.
Josiah Zayner 35:37
Yeah. But like, it's possible. And having that technology, that powerful technology available to everybody? Could you imagine, literally a technology to control the fate of humanity, right, you can genetically engineer humans, you can genetically engineer any animal, the fate of every organism being held by very few people. Like that, to me is crazy, scary.
Steven Parton 35:59
Yeah. not controlled by very few people. But I do worry, in full honesty, like I would love to see this technology become very ubiquitous, but at the same time, there's a part of me that's like, this is going to screw up ecosystems, you know, and like, evolution did take billions of years to adapt to one another in for like, bodies and brains and forms to say, Okay, this zebra runs really fast. So I need to learn to run a little bit faster the foods up here, and it took a you know, a million years for that neck on the zebra to grow a little bit longer. It's like what happens when all of a sudden, you just build a build an organism? And you have 100 of those competing on the landscape? It's like,
Josiah Zayner 36:41
oh, gosh, is it the greatest idea? Or is it the most terrible idea? You know? And that's, that's always a tough question. Because actually, the thing is, as humans is, it's, it's hard for us to comprehend these things, right? We didn't comprehend the effect that like the internet would have or social media, right? Or all these things and the effect that would have on us, we didn't even comprehend the effect that like, fucking smoking would have on humans, right? Everybody thought smoking was good for your health for the longest time. So we are not good at, like, projecting consequences for these things. So you have a couple options, right? Don't do it, and just be like, we're gonna outlaw it all and like, not do any of it right? Or try to think about the future instead of thinking about now and being like, Alright, you know, if we want a future that's equitable, how do we make this technology safe and available to the most amount of people possible, right? And nobody's really thinking about that question. People are just like, Is it good or bad now? And that's just so binary, it's so boring. It's just like, it's not so simple. Like, it's not as simple as that, right? Will this technology be used bad? And will it cause catastrophes? I'm sure what technology hasn't, right? Like, is there a tech, you know, cars, cause like, millions of deaths a year? Millions, just so we can travel faster and easier? Like, that's, that's kind of creepy. You know, when you're just like, wow, you know, they're the automobile God, we sacrifice millions alive, just so I can like, don't have to walk to the grocery store
Steven Parton 38:20
to brush that stat under the rug. When we talk about these things. Don't worry.
Josiah Zayner 38:24
If you think about it, it's like, there's that risk reward that people are thinking about, whether it's subconsciously or whatever, they're thinking about it, right? And they're like, cars are fucking awesome. Like, not having cars is terrible. So, you know, let's choose cars.
Steven Parton 38:43
If we are going to talk in terms of evolution, there does seem to be like an evolutionary appreciation that should take effect here, which is like cars have only been around for a very short period of time. And as the technology evolves, it's likely they'll drive themselves and not kill as many people so maybe we will have that rough, you know, pre teen, angsty teenager phase of biohacking and gene editing totally, but then it will maybe find that place where it's like, self guided nano engineered, biohacking, gene editing that prevents itself from creating harm. I don't know.
Josiah Zayner 39:22
Yeah, no, totally. And it's like, yeah, it's sad, and it sucks. But like, capitalism drives these things, right? Like you're talking about, it's like, it takes a long time for the amount of money get put in place for us to actually develop the technology to have self driving cars. Now we're starting to get to that place because people have the money and they're investing and car companies are investing in it, which is great, but without that money being invested in it, it's not going to happen and it's going to be the same thing with biotechnology, right? Until it's cool until it's popular and until everybody's doing it. Our company is going to invest money in it, but And when it gets that time, it's going to be too late probably already, you know, and it's just going to be like, boom, you're stuck with this technology. And now what? Yeah, you know, and I tried to talk to people in the government and stuff like that. But, you know, it's also just like, they don't care. You know, they're, they're more interested in, you know, nuclear weapons threats and all these other things. And, you know, if something really bad happens, we'll just slap ban hammer on it, you know,
Steven Parton 40:30
I mean, the fact that we was that we dismantle our pandemic response team, right before the pandemic kind of shows how inept we are, when it comes to things like science, technology.
Josiah Zayner 40:41
It's just so dumb, right? We did so bad. I mean, everybody in the world that's so bad with this pandemic, and you're just like, if this happens again, and it's way worse, like, we're screwed, all of us are screwed, like, Josh, as terrible as pandemic response. And, you know, that's one of my arguments is like, Look, you know, I did a calculation before we went through, and I figured out like, how many scientists are there in the world that are actually doing like hands on biomedical research, and the number is disgustingly low, it's something like 1.5 million across the whole world, right? You're talking billions of people, 1.5 million are doing hands on biomedical research, something like that. And you're just like, even if bio hackers are just there solely to increase the number of scientists in the world, like that would be valuable, right? or increase the number of people with scientific education, that would be valuable, right? Not even just people who do genetic engineering or things like that. And like, a million people, that's not hard. Number two, like double or triple, you know, I read somewhere online that there's around like 15 17 million hobbyists, computer programmers, people who just program for fun, you know, think if there were like 15 to 17 million, just like hobbyist scientists, biomedical scientists, you know, like, the FDA approves, like 60 to 70 drugs a year. And most of those are like reformulations. Or like, they treat diseases that already have treatments, right? And the who has registered like, over 30,000 diseases? Wow. Right. So if we're doing like, 10 drugs a year for different diseases, what is it going to be like, 3000 years before we get a treatment for every disease? Like, what kind of timescale? reasonable?
Steven Parton 42:37
Yeah, feels like, in a lot of ways, we would benefit so much from having the garage tinkerers and hackers and bio hackers who are, you know, for every, even if it's only one out of every 100,000 of them, you know, are creating a breakthrough technology or solution that didn't exist before? Because they were able to use something like maybe a DIY kit in a garage to like, learn it on their own.
Josiah Zayner 43:03
Yeah, it's so valuable. It's I mean, at least I think it is, it's crazy, you know, a lot of the world's problems come down to a lot of it is something biological, you know, we talked about medicine, you're talking about food, you're talking about energy, like, a lot of these things come from biological sources. And so it's like, if we can focus on biology and invest in biology, not just money, but also human hours, like, I think our world is gonna go so far.
Steven Parton 43:34
And when I hear you say that, I then think, Why are you getting so much pushback? Why do you feel like in a lot of ways you've so I followed you on Facebook for a few years, I think that things were like, kind of starting, and I just say, you know, just like, kind of haphazardly watched the things that you guys do. And I feel like I've watched you get like, demonetised and censored Yeah, I've watched you get a ton of shit from companies and, and a lot of really negative responses to what you're doing. Like, I guess, can you talk about what that is like, and why I think it's happening?
Josiah Zayner 44:08
Well, I think the main reason that I get a lot of pushback from governments and technology companies and all these people is because I'm doing science differently. And I think that's a huge shock, right? So like, I have a PhD, I worked at NASA, I published scientific papers and very reputable journals, good science. You know, I've spoken at, you know, famous scientific conferences and all these things. But the way I present science is is different because I'm not trying to speak to other scientists. I'm trying to speak to people, because I want people to know what's possible. So like, the way I present, present, my science tends to be a little more dramatic, it tends to be a little more interesting, entertaining, all these things that science isn't supposed to be. So what ends up happening is I get lumped in these categories of like, that's probably not real, or that guy's crazy, because like, that's not how mainstream science should be right? It should be some boring person, you know, who's wearing a tie and some lab coat and glasses. And, you know, and that's not me. And so I think that's one of the reasons that I think the other thing is just that, like, people don't understand it. You know, people don't understand what I'm doing. And so they have immediate, like, lash, they're just like, That's crazy. And you're just like, Well, why, you know, people shouldn't be able to do that, well, why, you know, and it's just because like, it's so outside people's realm of like, what is normal, and what is acceptable, that they're not ready for it yet. And more and more people are, though more important, people are like, you know, that is interesting, maybe we should support that maybe we should be involved in that stuff. But I think right now, it's still you know, I remember this interview, it was like on dateline or something like that. I didn't actually see the live interview, I somehow stumbled upon this YouTube video when I was in a YouTube hole, you know, and it was like Steve Jobs. On dateline, I'm debating some guy about whether people should have personal computers. And nowadays, we think that's crazy. You know, like, who would argue against people having personal computers, you know, but there was some person who was arguing against people having personal computers, and you're just like, holy cow. Like, a lot of times when there's new technology goes through phases, you know, people are fearful of it and scared because it's unknown. And then people start to warm up to it, right? And then it becomes ubiquitous. And so I think we're still in that phase where like, people don't understand it enough. So they're, they're fearful. They're hesitant of it. Yeah, they're scared of it.
Steven Parton 47:02
But I still feel there's like, a natural lincolnwood inclination towards that, Sue, because as I'm thinking, while you're saying that, I'm thinking about the fact that I've just did like a gut biome test where I could get custom made enzymes to my like microbiome, I have like a watch that helps me monitor my sleep stuff. And there's all these other little things that I do with like vitamins after I drink, alcohol, and all this stuff. And I'm constantly trying to figure out how to make myself feel the best because I know myself better than anybody else. And when I go into a traditional system, when I go into the hospital, or a doctor's office, I get these really kind of like standardized responses that honestly make me feel kind of like cattle in a system. And I feel like they are just way off mark, like they don't, they don't care, or it's they're not listening, or I don't have time to explain. And I feel like we feel like people want to take that control over their own their own health and their biology, because they know it better than anyone else, and somebody else just doesn't care as much. Yeah, for you know, natural reasons, somebody is just not going to care as much as you care.
Josiah Zayner 48:11
Oh, 100%, you know, I, I went to this doctor, and I told them I, one of the medications that they prescribed me was, you know, giving me side effects. And they were like, no, that's not a side effect of that medication or something like that. And I'm like, Wait, you're telling me that what I feel is wrong with no based on nothing, right? Like, just based on your opinion. That's crazy. You know, even if it was just my opinion, I think you'd like at least try to listen to it and take it into account. Later, I went and looked it up. And it is a side effect in a small proportion of the population. It's just a small proportion of the population. But, you know, you're just like, oh, gosh, like, yeah, these people are way off and it hurts it like literally hurts people.
Steven Parton 48:59
So what's your focus? Now? I know we're coming up on time here, but we're Where is your energy invested? Now? What is the fight that you think needs to happen? Are you still wanting to fight for this? Like,
Josiah Zayner 49:10
oh, yeah, no, I mean, right now I'm, you know, my ultimate goal. I don't think the ultimate goal is always just to create a dragon boats, you know, facetiously and also, I'm like, for real? Because I think it's the epitome of like, pointless science. You know, it's just like, does the dragon have any usefulness in the world? No, like, probably not, right? But it's just be super cool and everybody would want one. So what we've started to push for is working, doing embryo genetic modification. So we recently set up our own microinjection rig, where we can stick tiny needles into embryos. different organisms, inject them with DNA and other things to genetically modify them. Because like we were talking about earlier, adults, though, you can modify them, it's really hard. But if you can inject and modify it, like the six cell stage, or eight cell stage or something like that, at worse, you're like, you know, one in eight cells in the body is modified, right? Which is huge. Yeah, it's huge. That's like, way more than you'll probably ever need, right? At best, you're probably like 50% of the cells in the body are modified, right? So if you want to do like serious body changes, you can do crazy stuff that people have, right? You can grow extra limbs and do all this stuff that like people imagine and dream. But you have to be able to set up a micro injection rig, which is like, it's not easy. Most people don't have the knowledge, or like skill to be able to set up something like that, or work with something like that. So we're trying to, we have set up a rig, we're trying to develop a guide to teach other people how to set up rigs similarly, because like, to me, I want biohackers to be what everybody hates, follows them to be. And that's like engineering organisms in their garage, like crazy as shit. Like Pokemon every day, it was just like, oh, gosh, why is there this weird organism walking down the street? Somebody? Somebody was doing something crazy, you know, that's the kind of world I want to live in.
Steven Parton 51:30
And when you say we, is that your company with the Odin?
Josiah Zayner 51:33
Yeah, it's my company, and the other biohackers and scientists who work who work there. Um,
Steven Parton 51:40
speaking of which, what is the best way for people to find your work and kind of stuff that you're putting out there if they want to follow you?
Josiah Zayner 51:48
Yeah, I mean, I'm on all the social medias, you know, Instagram. It's just j zaner. And Twitter's for love of science. You could follow me just search me on the internet, and I'm sure you'll be able to find me. Just don't read any of the news article.
Steven Parton 52:03
Fair enough. Does that man I really want to thank you for taking the time. I really appreciate this conversation and we'll include links to all this stuff.
Josiah Zayner 52:12
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. No, I mean, it was good. Yeah, I got to talk about all the crazy stuff you know, that's always good.