Interview with Maarten den Braber: The World of Biohacking

Maarten den Braber from the Netherlands is a Digital Health Strategist, working on applying and researching new business models in technology and health. He runs digital health strategy company SQRD with clients such as medical-clinical labs, hospital organizations and healthcare marketing agencies. He also co-founded the global Quantified Self Europe conference, QS Amsterdam and Nexthealth (organizing the first ever European Health 2.0 event). Maarten graduated as Master of Science from University of Twente on the subject of Rethinking the Hospital (applying business model theory to the strategic management of hospitals). He is currently also co-organizer of Singularity University NL, founded by NASA and Google.

Since 2009 Maarten was co-organizer of the largest worldwide Mobile Monday meetup: MoMo Amsterdam (4,500+ members). He has also served as Chief Operation Officer of Skylines, a Big Data startup in Amsterdam, which was Techcrunch Disrupt finalist in 2012. He is interested in building sustainable business models which leverage new insights and technology to improve health and well-being for both individuals and society at large.

Printed circuit board and wireframe headWe are looking forward to having you speak at the upcoming Biohacker Summit in Helsinki in December, Maarten. Could give us tell us what you consider to be the essential biohacker “must-have” for 2015?!

Maarten den Braber:

I think what’s most important for people is to find the technology that really answers their questions. We have a lot of technologies out there that are solving things that are not necessarily what we need to solve! So I’m excited that there’s now more attention to helping people understand what is a relevant question for them, & better understanding their context  –  things that help you make sense of your current data.

We have a lot of raw data around people’s physiology for example and we need to understand what is a necessity for you to look into. For example, if you monitor sleep, how can you say more about what is actually in that graph? It takes knowledge, time & attention to understand what it is really saying.

I am most happy to see more services popping up that offer analytics as a service to help you make sense of it, especially when it’s coupled with human coaches and the connection to other services to help you better understand your data. I think we are now progressing one level up from the raw data, to truly discovering what it’s all about & making sense of it.

Biohacker Summit:

True. So there’s really no “one size fits all” because we all have different needs, but the “must-have” is really finding a tool or tools that help you best interpret whatever the data you have been collecting about yourself?



p01434jcBiohacker Summit:

Some of us have just recently heard this word ‘biohacking’ & it sounds cool & we would like to know what it’s all about & how to best get started with it, but it’s a bit overwhelming to know where to begin – even though we really do want to be happier & healthier & know ourselves better. Could you give us some advice?


The question that should first be answered really is “What is the definition of biohacking?” Because some people go into the domain of what I would call “body-hacking” – body modifications like getting an implant in your hand, or then the totally different side of how to best manage your sleep if you are jet-lagged.. Those are both there in the same spectrum, so it’s a more a matter of what you wish to look into. There’s a whole range, & it’s a pretty broad domain of things that are considered to be biohacking.

There are also a lot of resources you can tap into depending on where you go, a lot of new technologies too, but I think the communities are most interesting to look into. Because reading up on what’s being done is one thing, but getting in touch with people who have done experiments, who can show you their data, & whom you can work together with & do experiments with – that can help you out!

Define those experiments in situations that are relevant for you – that’s a good starting point. There are communities such as Quantified Self & Biohacking Finland. There is Quantified Self all over Europe, including in Amsterdam. Here in the Netherlands we also have the Permanent Beta biohacking community. All those communities I consider to be very good resources.


Of course there are also multiple resources on the net. I find myself, that less & less there’s single communities so to say where I find my resources from & I’m more using tools to filter a lot of different content into specific topics that I follow like: singularity biohacking, body hacking, implants, quantified self, data visualization.

Also, there are mobile tools like Zite & others, that filter many streams including Facebook & Twitter, various blogs & other things into a format that identifies the most interesting articles for me. Many articles are spread over the net so it doesn’t work for me to have only one resource. There are some blogs that I read up on, like I try to read most of what is posted on Quantified Self, Singularity HUB & then some more edgy things…like is a website that is interesting or some things around medical like Finding those is essential I think, because they all cover a different aspect of what is otherwise a very broad domain.

Being actively involved helps you better understand the motivation of people & what resources they use & then you are able to share in those experiences – that’s what it’s most about!

iStock_000001088618XSmall-300x221Biohacker Summit:

Could you tell us a bit about what you are going to speak about at the Biohacker Summit?


My main topic will be at the end of the day, where I will be looking into the future topics of what this community is about. Currently this community of course, is in the very early stages. I often compare it to computing in the 70s or 80s – we look at all the possibilities & all the things we see technology can do, but what are the things that we need to focus on that are really important? What are the boundaries? Are there any? Are there things that we shouldn’t do or should be careful about.

Because the subject is very quickly being picked up by many entities from governments to companies to individuals, & as a community we are able to help define & bring to the front the important topics that need to be discussed. Should we be more concerned for example, about the impact that we are only a very small, almost elite group right now, with very few people to have resources to be able to do this? How about the other groups that can benefit from these technologies? Should we focus on them? Should we be concerned about the ethics of all of this? Where do we go to if we want to discuss that? What are the interesting things happening in the near future, like 2 to 5 years, & what is important to take into account? So it’s also about sharing the experiences & making a little more sense of what we are going to focus on in the near future.

Biohacker Summit:

Great! We are excited about hearing you speak soon!

Author: Angel Goa

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