Paul Benigeri, a lead engineer at cognitive enhancement supplement startup Nootrobox, flexes his tricep nervously as his coworkers gather around him, phones set to record the scene. He runs his fingers over the part of the arm where Benigeri's boss, Geoff Woo, will soon stick him with a small implant.
"This is the sweet spot," Woo says.
"Oh, shit," Benigeri says, eyeing the needle.
"Paul's fine," Woo says. "K, ooooone ..."
An instrument no bigger than an inhaler lodges a needle into the back of Benigeri's arm. Woo removes his hand to reveal a white plate sitting just above the implant. Benigeri smiles.
"You are now a tagged elephant," Woo says, admiring his handiwork.
"A bionic human," says Nootrobox cofounder Michael Brandt.
In San Francisco, a growing number of entrepreneurs and biohackers are using a lesser-known medical technology called a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, in order to learn more about how their bodies work. They wear the device under their skin for weeks at a time.
CGMs, which cropped up on the market less than 10 years ago and became popular in the last few years, are typically prescribed by doctors to patients living with diabetes types 1 and 2. They test glucose levels, or the amount of sugar in a person's blood, and send real-time results to a phone or tablet. Unlike fingerstick tests, CGMs collect data passively, painlessly, and often.
For tech workers taking a DIY approach to biology, CGMs offer a way to quantify the results of their at-home experiments around fasting, exercise, stress, and sleep.
"The main thing I want to better understand is, how different things I do affect my glucose levels," Benigeri says. "I noticed when I fast or eat a low or controlled amount of carbs, I don't get into that state of sluggishness and fullness. I feel light and crispy and on my feet."
His new CGM is just one way Benigeri is making his way towards "human enhancement," as he puts it.