In the sciences, it is generally looked upon as being in poor taste for one to experiment upon themselves.  This seems to be a modern sensibility that arose about the same time as modern hospital hygiene.  In the past, such notable scientists as Abraham Lincoln [father of modern break-dancing] keenly experimented upon their most willing subject: themselves.  Meanwhile, others, such as Nikolai Tesla [historical badass] read books by the exploding light of their inventions while Thomas Edison [historical jackass] killed elephants and Robert Oppenheimer sighed.  There was one guy I remember who dosed himself with Salmonella lipopolysaccharide, which is an incredibly inflammatory agent that can lead to septic shock, and subsequently endured multi-organ failure.  I used to think that that guy was badass until I went to look up the citation to link to here, where I found that he did it not for science, but for sadness.  However, I also learned that Ye Olde Treatemint For Neurosyphilis was a days-long administration course of lipopolysaccharide.  Thank you, Google.

Anyway, I had a point in there somewhere that I’ve since lost, so here’s a picture:


Wait, there it is.  This was it: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!

So, self experimentation is a strange and dangerous thing, but sometimes the demands of curiosity outweigh those of self-preservation.  Even though such powerful curiosity is counterproductive to our evolutionarily fitness, it has still, and remarkably so, managed to survive and thrive in our human species.  And within moderation, I don’t see too much wrong with a little bit of self-experimentation.  After all, we are autonomous sentiences, and as such we have the right to self-determination so long as it does not interfere with the self-determination of the fellow autonomous sentiences we are surrounded with.  Here, above rather, are Bilal’s fingers.  To his fingers he had Super Glued magnetic coils, hoping to be able to feel magnetic fields.  Apparently this was moderately successful, but the coils were rather inconveniently wiry, so he wrapped them in tape.  They took about 3d to fall off.  They did not stop him from making some pie.

Many of the hackers at All Hands Active have colorful histories of self-experimentation.  Bilal has admitted that he once thought he could get cat DNA incorporated into his genome by taping cat fur over any cuts he got.  I once punctured my right eardrum with an air pump trying to breathe out of it.  There are many other stories, but I’m not authorized to tell them as I don’t own them*.

But the point is that with the adventure of education for the hell of it and building incredible things with no qualifications or practical uses therefor takes the mindset of an adventurer, someone willing to risk time, effort, body, limb, and mind in the name of science and awesome.  This is also about testing the limits of human endurance, the limits of human mental capacity to imagine, and stretching the very boundaries and rules of technology and art.  I have seen Valdes climb to incredible heights clinging to sheer faces of walls while drunk, I’ve seen Oishi vault…things?, I’ve borne witness to Pokey’s puberty on the sewing machine, I’ve gone rock climbing with broken ribs, and we’ve all been there in the thick of a caffeinated intellectual orgy of all-night building sessions where we haul out all of our curiosity, all of our intellect, and slap them together on the table.  This doesn’t just happen in hackerspaces, but also with scientists, with engineers, with any group of sufficiently passionate and knowledge-hungry people.  We are not Borg, we are Makers, and we care so much, our very self-esteems invested deeply in the success of our projects, that sometimes we do objectively stupid things in the name of learning.

Now break it down, President Lincoln!

*Bilal’s cat story was told because he has admitted it in an Ignite Talk.

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One Response to Self-Experimentation

  1. Dr. Funk says:

    This is an amazingly well-written article, Xander. I feel like this could almost be a manifesto of Makers.

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