Most geeks know who Ray Kurzweil is. Most musicians do too, and so do many blind people. Kurzweil has invented so many things in so many different fields, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Perhaps one of the things he’s most famous for, aside from inventing the first reading machine and some awesome keyboards (the kind a musician plays), is his support—or, really, evangelism—for the concept of the Singularity.
The Singularity, in case you didn’t know, is the theorized point in time characterized by the development of a smarter-than-human intelligence that is capable of improving itself. From this point on, we’re supposed to see a rapid advance in technological progress, because the artificial intelligences are constantly creating intelligences that are smarter than themselves, and hence able to tackle many other problems in technology and science that we haven’t even begun to touch on.
One of the concepts that comes hand-in-hand with the Singularity is transhumanism—which is, more or less, the improvement of the human nervous system and body through technology. It’s through transhumanism that we approach Ray Kurzweil’s extreme lifehacking. Though 60 years old, Kurzweil is determined to stay alive until the Singularity occurs and he can upload his consciousness and essentially live forever using (again, theorized) mind transfer technology.
Well, everyone’s motives for lifehacking varies, and if the Singularity does arrive I bet a lot of us will regret not taking extra measures to stay alive (if we could have regret in death, anyway). But there’s a heck of a lot to learn from guys like Ray who take lifehacking to an extreme level.
Have a Strong Motivation
The extreme measures that Kurzweil adopts to live longer—as we’ll discuss in a moment—are all inspired by a strong motivation. At the root of that motivation is a desire to live forever. That’s a pretty strong motivation, and to stick to such extreme measures it needs to be.
If you’re going to adopt an extreme lifehacking system to achieve a goal— it could be for anything, from losing weight, giving up smoking to learning an instrument—you need to find a way to keep motivated consistently. It’s got to be so good that even the strongest urge to give in doesn’t shake you. For instance, I know many singers who, when they realized that smoking damaged lung cells irreparably and it was impossible to ever gain back their full lung capacity, quit immediately and permanently.
Before you set out to conquer a heck of a mountain, what’s going to get you to the top?
Take No Risks
Sometimes the best things in life happen because we take risks, but if you’re going to do this right, you’ve got to eliminate all of your potential downfalls. Kurzweil drives slowly and carefully; if you live in his neighborhood, you’ve probably beeped your horn at him a few times! He realizes that driving is a huge risk to longevity and eliminates as much of the risk as he possibly can.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, a risk would be going to a club or party where there is nothing but smoke in the air, or heading out to eat in that little corner where the smokers go during their lunch break. There’s one of those everywhere.
Eliminating risks means you don’t have to work as hard to keep motivated, since there’s less resistance to it. It means you’re more likely to succeed.
Don’t Go Half-Assed
Go here and scroll down a bit. That’s a picture of Kurzweil’s daily vitamins, and he even has to hire someone to sort and separate them into bags for him. This isn’t a person who one day decided he’d just eat less chips and go for more walks when he finds the time.
If you want to lose weight, then forget the fad diets. Cut out all (there are no alternate interpretations to the world all) the crap in your diet, and don’t put a time limit on it either. Don’t decide to do it for a few weeks or “until I lose the weight”—do it from now until the day you die. Exercise as much as you need to each day so you can burn more calories than you take in. There is utterly no point in going half-assed, other than to make it more difficult next time you try.
I hate reality television, but I’ve seen an episode or two of the Australian version of The Biggest Loser. To me, that’s extreme lifehacking; they’ve done everything they can to bring about the change they desire. They spend almost all day, every day, with their mind focused on solving the problem.
Kurzweil and his partner Terry Grossman routinely look for new ways to improve their health and extend their lives, such as producing alkaline water to scavenge free radicals in their systems. Part of lifehacking is looking for new ideas and trying them out to see if they work; it’s experimentation. While one should bear in mind the take no risks policy while doing this—going to a party full of smoke is not an experiment that will help you quit—it’s perhaps the most useful, and most enjoyable, part of the process.
What is Lifehacking?
Some people will inevitably tell me that this is not lifehacking. Lifehacking is about making small changes to your day-to-day life to make it more efficient, they’ll say. I’ve heard it a hundred times before. And what they say is true, but I believe that’s only part of it. The underlying concept has great potential to improve your life. By limiting what it can be, you limit yourself.
You can adopt a little lifehack that’ll help you sort your email faster. That’s all good. But can you implement extreme lifehacking to bring about massive change in your life? Give it a shot, put it on trial, and see how many areas of your life you can improve before the year is up.