The new CBS series Limitless, an adaptation of the 2011 film of the same name is a an unabashed forerunner of the pill popping bio hacking lifestyle of the new millennium. An episodic crime solving backdrop is used to convey how much better a person can perform in life enhanced by NZT-48, a mysterious drug that allows a person to function at super human levels; mentally.You’ve probably seen the film; super drug, super bad side effects but our hero feng shui’s a way around the side effects And wins the day. Well the show picks up where the film left off and exactly how this feng shui’ing happened is still being dangled as the proverbial carrot on the stick. Except for a cameo in the pilot episode Bradley Cooper’s character senator Eddie Morra mostly plays a back seat to our main guy in the series Brian Finch with the senator acting as his silent sponsor. Throw in a “consultancy” position with the FBI into the mix and Brian has his never-ending quest (hopefully past season 1) which he completes on his single daily dose of NZT-48, solving impossible cases like they were child’s play.
In the wake of the film many drugs were sold as being like the drug from ‘Limitless’; Provigil and Adderall just being a couple of the more mainstream ones. But the film actually popularised more than just the pills, after all in the film Eddie would’ve been killed just like everyone else who had regularly taken NZT-48 if he hadn’t used his enhanced mental abilities to bio hack a way to neutralise the side effects. If the film was to be accused of popularising a trend it lies in the field of bio-hacking, this could include practises such as self medicating or even using supplements to optimise the way the body functions. It’s a trend that is beginning to explore some out there concepts, the same way tattoos, piercings and plastic surgery have been combined to carry out mind-boggling body modifications (I’m thinking lizard man..side bar I swear I’ve been seeing that dude in some low-budget films recently). Anyway Oxford dictionary defines biohacking as The activity of exploiting genetic material experimentally without regard to accepted ethical standards, or for criminal purposes. Very different from bio-engineering, because they do the same thing but mostly for profit.
The series also features elements of biological manipulations of the human body as the basis of a couple of its episodes. In the pilot episode Brian saves his father’s life by correctly diagnosing a commonly misdiagnosed ailment which his father suffered from, and he does this by completing a diagram of his family tree and tracing the illness through his ancestors. This could very loosely be described as low tech reverse bio engineering. Another episode features a bio weapon that only affected the genetic descendants of Ganges Khan, I’m not even sure if that level of bio engineering is available today but that’s pretty high-tech compared to the family tree diagram.
The show so far is focusing on one aspect of bio-hacking (altering/enhancing the body through chemical compounds) an article on www.channel4.com/programmes/futurgasm/articles/all/biohacking talks about bio hacking being a Californian trend involving technology that is surgically implanted into the body, think magnets under the skin…or real life Magneto. Limitless is developed by Craig Sweeny, the first he’s developed but a proven TV writer/producer none the less with a long history at CBS. It’ll be interesting to see how far into the world of bio hacking the series will delve and also how the back story that connects the episodic pace of the show, namely when or if how the senators gotten around the side effects of NZT-48 will be revealed.